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Hoping to bridge the gap between acute healthcare and the VCSE sector, an Arts & Culture on Prescription programme is currently being piloted at UCLH. The programme connects small groups of outpatients with arts-based interventions to foster autonomy around health management and creative expression of personal experience.

“I am a social prescribing link worker at University College London Hospital. I am now in a health care practitioner role which never existed when I embarked on my psychology degree, seven years ago. It is not just the context of acute care which makes this link worker position unique, but also the fact that the role itself is nestled under UCLH’s Arts and Culture department. Taken together, I am able to bridge the gap between outpatient care and the wider community by prescribing arts-based interventions to address the social aspects of complex health needs.

In more detail, the pilot comprises a 6-week course of ‘mindfulness-drawing’ sessions for individuals experiencing chronic fatigue and low mood as a consequence of fibromyalgia. We have embedded these sessions into pre-existing referral pathways, and employed a person-centred approach. I receive referrals from clinicians and then help the individual to identify what matters most to them in improving their wellbeing and lived experience.

Additionally, I engage in weekly ‘check-ins’ with my outpatients to encourage patient-focused dialogue and in turn garner the much-needed qualitative data the pilot requires to establish efficacy of treatment, in its bid to continue beyond Spring.

As a link worker, I appreciate the symbiotic relationship between trust-building with patients and knowledge of community assets. Both have proven to be key in ensuring the programme’s uptake thus far. This project is a reminder of the duality of needs that exist for successful deployment of similar schemes in this context. Social prescribing projects in hospitals will require an empirical, replicable approach, which preserves the voice of the community assets it seeks to amplify engagement with.

In line with these needs, we have found the employment of the ‘My Concerns and Wellbeing’ scale to be a sufficient means of capturing this data in a way that is efficacious and feels less clinical to patients. This is being done elsewhere too, SPLW’s in settings from education – Secondary Healthcare are increasingly using this scale, originally constructed for use in cancer-management contexts, to understand what is important to an individual’s wellbeing over time.

Additionally, I have been able to facilitate musical sessions beyond the remit of my own hospital work, just through having a working knowledge of local assets and the needs of the community they serve. We connected Post-grad. music students of The Guild School of Music and Drama with a local community association to deliver musical therapy sessions for new mothers and babies in response to a sharp increase in post-partum depression.

Clarifying just what constitutes ‘arts on prescription’, and identifying funding opportunities to sustain its delivery, remains a constant task. Clinicians require clarity in making informed referrals – and artists, facilitators, link workers and community organisations need stable funding to facilitate prolonged-delivery and ensure sufficient provision of care.

Thankfully, HCPs and patients alike at UCLH have been incredibly receptive to the pilot scheme – clinicians are glad to make bespoke referrals, and our outpatients have already reported experiencing improved mood and lower pain after engaging with the arts!”

A patient led landscape drawing exercise, here the idea of transformation and balance was explored through initially drawing various clouds which eventually served to water a flourishing landscape (Anon. patient)

A blind self-portrait exercise where an individual is invited to explore the various forms of themselves such as thoughts drawing with eyes closed alternate hand single hand etc (Anon. patient)

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