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GPs urged by MPs to prescribe poetry and painting

GPs should be able to prescribe poetry workshops or painting lessons as part of arts-on-prescription schemes to improve patients’ health and wellbeing, according to an All-Party Parliamentary Group.

A new report from the group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing argues that the arts can help meet major challenges facing health and social care including ageing, long-term conditions, loneliness and mental health.

It points to an innovative Artlift arts-on-prescription scheme in Gloucestershire and Wiltshire, where GPs refer patients with a wide range of conditions – from chronic pain to stroke to anxiety and depression – to take part in an eight-week course of two-hour sessions led a professional working in poetry, ceramics, drawing, mosaic or painting.

A cost-benefit analysis of Artlift from 2009 to 2012 showed that, after six months of working with an artist, people had 37% less demand for GP appointments and their need for hospital admission dropped by 27%.

Setting reductions in costs to the NHS against the cost of Artlift interventions, there was a net saving of £216 per patient, the report points out.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group recommends that NHS England and the Social Prescribing Network support clinical commissioning groups, NHS provider trusts and local authorities to ‘incorporate arts on prescription into their commissioning plans and to redesign care pathways where appropriate’.

It would also like to see that the education of clinicians includes accredited modules on the evidence base and practical use of the arts for health and wellbeing outcomes.

In the foreword to the report, Lord Howarth of Newport, co-chair for the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing, said: ‘The evidence we present shows how arts-based approaches can help people to stay well, recover faster, manage long-term conditions and experience a better quality of life.’


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