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GPs should prescribe poetry and arts classes, MPs recommend

Report highlights that social prescribing cuts patient demand for GP appointments and other NHS services

Ingrid Torjesen

Thursday, 20 July 2017

GPs should prescribe poetry and art classes to patients with conditions such as depression and chronic pain to boost their health and wellbeing, a report* from MPs say.

The report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Arts, Health and Wellbeing says that greater use of social prescribing could save the NHS money by cutting GP consultation rates and hospital admissions.

The report highlights an art on prescription programme in Gloucestershire and Wiltshire, which sees patients with depression, anxiety, chronic pain and those recovering from strokes offered an eight-week two-hour course in poetry, ceramics, drawing, mosaic or painting.

A cost benefit analysis showed that, after six months of working with an artist, people had 37% less demand for GP appointments and their need for hospital admissions dropped by 27% creating a net saving of £216 per patient.

Mary Hutton, accountable officer, NHS Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group and lead for Gloucestershire Sustainability and Transformation Partnership said: “It has been heart-warming to hear about many examples in our system where, through involvement in the arts, people have been able to develop their talents and live fuller lives, taking more control of their health and wellbeing. We believe that the arts and cultural sector has a major part to play in the transformation of health and care in Gloucestershire.”

In a foreword to the report Rt Hon. Lord Howarth of Newport co-chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing, says: “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. We also show how arts interventions can save money and help staff in their work. Culture change cannot be imposed by government, and we are not asking for legislation or organisational upheaval or more public spending. Government can, however, support the process of change. We hope that our report will help to develop the case that is already being made, by ministers and the NHS as well as others, that we should work towards a healthy and health-creating society.”

Dr Jane Povey, a GP and director of Creative Inspiration Shropshire Community Interest Company said: “At least one third of GP appointments are, in part, due to isolation. Through social prescribing and community resilience programmes, creative arts can have a significant impact on reducing isolation and enabling wellbeing in communities.”


*  Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing. All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing Inquiry Report, July 2017.

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