Press release

New report shows arts and health roles within the NHS improve patient and staff wellbeing

Report confirms leading arts and health initiative has helped improve the health and wellbeing of NHS patients, staff and the wider population.

4 November 2022

A leading arts and health initiative has helped improve the health and wellbeing of NHS patients, staff and the wider population, a new report confirmed today.

The 'Arts and Health Coordinator Capacity Building Programme' introduced and developed arts and health coordinator roles in all seven health boards in Wales.

Projects supporting older people at risk of falls, children and young people living with eating disorders, adults experiencing loneliness and isolation, and NHS staff who have experienced trauma are among the many successes highlighted in the interim evaluation*.

The programme was established by the Arts Council of Wales in 2018, amid mounting evidence of the positive impact the arts can have on health and wellbeing. Each health board was invited to apply for three years of seed funding, with the aim that the positions could then become permanent and NHS-funded. Where arts and health coordinator posts already existed, the programme offered health boards the chance to increase their capacity and reach by expanding their arts and health team.

While health boards are all at different stages of their arts and health journey, today’s report evidences the positive contribution of the roles to the physical and mental health of patients and the wider population at various stages of their care - from prevention of illness through to treatment and recovery – as well as staff wellbeing.

Findings show the programme has helped build credibility for arts and health work across the health and care system, leading to the delivery of good quality arts and health activity, helping develop arts and health strategies in some health boards, and supporting health board priorities.

Dr Clive Grace OBE, of UK Research & Consultancy Services, said: “We were delighted to undertake the evaluation because there is already considerable evidence that the synergy between Arts and Health is capable of generating value across a range of health settings. However, finding ways to stimulate and multiply that value is another matter, and one which depends on crafting an intervention that ‘fits’ with the NHS in Wales, and the way it works, whilst delivering the benefits of creativity and of the experience of the Arts, in all their forms.”

Nesta Lloyd–Jones, Assistant Director, Welsh NHS Confederation, said: “The evaluation report evidences the critical role the arts and health coordinators play in supporting the health and wellbeing of the people in Wales.

“Wales is leading the way in embedding the arts across the health service, with a growing understanding of the impact the arts can have in improving health outcomes, countering inequalities and increasing social engagement.

“NHS leaders recognise that the arts need to be part of the solution in responding to the demands across the system now and in the future. We must work with partners across sector boundaries to provide person-centred care”.

Sally Lewis, Programme Manager for Arts, Health and Wellbeing at the Arts Council of Wales, said: “Having an arts and health coordinator in every health board is a unique asset of the NHS in Wales and one that deserves to be championed and secured for the future. Acting as a bridge between the arts and health worlds, they are perfectly placed to understand current health priorities and respond with arts activities that support the health and wellbeing of patients, staff and communities.

“We welcome this important report which illustrates the significant success, impact and cost-effectiveness of the Capacity Building programme to date. We particularly want to thank the arts and health coordinators for their superb commitment and pioneering work as we reflect on the report’s recommendations to further strengthen the programme. This report inspires us to explore with our health board partners how we can now mainstream these roles as permanent NHS posts so that we can maximise the powerful contribution the arts can make to people’s health and wellbeing across Wales.”

‘Evaluation of the Arts and Health Coordinator Capacity Building Programme’ can be accessed in full here.

*The Evaluation of the Arts and Health Coordinator Capacity Building Programme was commissioned by the Welsh NHS Confederation following a grant received from the Arts Council of Wales (ACW) and conducted by UK Research & Consultancy Services.

The Welsh NHS Confederation considered a number of potential evaluators before selecting UK Research & Consultancy Services to carry out the evaluation because of their experience of working within the NHS.

Click here to read the press release in Welsh.

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We are the membership organisation that brings together, supports and speaks for the whole healthcare system in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The members we represent employ 1.5 million staff, care for more than 1 million patients a day and control £150 billion of public expenditure. We promote collaboration and partnership working as the key to improving population health, delivering high-quality care and reducing health inequalities.