Medical professionals in the North West of England are looking towards making singing a recognised part of healthcare treatment.
Across the Cheshire and Merseyside areas in the UK, there are currently 27 National Health Service (NHS) organisations which have committed to developing a social prescription plan which includes singing and reading.
The plan will initially focus on new and expectant mothers, using arts and health partnerships to give children the ‘best start’ in life. This initial framework will form the basis for general social prescribing for all stages of life across the whole country.
The NHS vanguard Cheshire and Merseyside Women’s and Children’s Services’ recently commissioned NHS consultant Jo Ward to undertake a nine-month ‘scoping exercise’ examining how partnerships between health and culture could benefit human health and improve recovery rates. Ward’s research ultimately found that cultural partnerships were effective ways of engaging with ‘hard to reach’ groups.
Ward is now calling on artists and healthcare professionals to “step up” as “they’re probably already sitting on solutions”.
“The current NHS focus is affordability,” Ward told Arts Professional. “It currently gives you things to make you well instead of targeting behaviour which makes you unwell.
“We want to get creative health engagement right so that we can live good lives from day one. We want people to be able to manage their own care – a pill isn’t always the right answer.”
The vanguard is made up of 27 healthcare providers, clinical commissioning groups and health networks, each tasked with investigating new care models.
Inspiration for the scoping exercises included a manifesto for social prescribing by one Cheshire-based healthcare provider, as well as a recent study which found singing workshops may help mothers recover more quickly from post-natal depression.
Ward said each area of Cheshire and Merseyside must now develop its own approach to social prescribing, depending on the opportunity and need in the area.
Dave Sweeney, the NHS official tasked with making sure the commitment to a social prescription plan is implemented across Merseyside and Cheshire, told Arts Professional he was “very confident” the proposals would be taken up.
“The public are aching for good news and for something different.” Sweeney said.
“The problem in healthcare is that no-one ever asks the real question: ‘How are you really doing?’”.
“Social prescribing helps tackle those wellbeing questions and is already used by good GPs. What is missing is a framework to ensure this prescription is consistent and sustained.”
“Within 12 months all nine places across Cheshire and Merseyside will have adopted social prescribing as part of their primary care. We will have a consistent approach with demonstrable outputs.”
Sweeney is now in conversation with Health Education England to adapt the curriculum for health and social care students.
According to Arts Professional, a symposium will be held in early July to share best practice models of arts and health projects and to create links between health officials and the culture sector.
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