Press release

Partnership enables Wales to lead the way on arts and health approach

The Welsh NHS Confederation and Arts Council of Wales have renewed their Memorandum of Understanding to continue arts and health initiatives in Wales.

12 December 2023

  • Infographic which reads: ‘Advancing Arts, Health and Wellbeing: Working in partnership since 2017: Arts Council of Wales and Welsh NHS Confederation.’ Top left: ‘Arts and health teams in every health board and Velindre University NHS Trust’ with an image of a diverse group of NHS staff and patients taking part in the arts. Top middle: Reads ‘Supporting creative programmes that improve people’s health & wellbeing’. ‘Backing innovation’ with an image of people thinking of innovative ideas and improving (climbing ladders). Top right: Reads ‘Sharing best practice: research, repots, case studies’ with an image of people singing, painting and dancing. Bottom left: Reads ‘Training & networking’ with an image of people talking and connecting. Bottom right: Reads ‘Raising awareness, reaching the public, political radar, events’ with an image of the Senedd (Welsh Parliament) and a performance taking place. Illustration by Laura Sorvala. 

A national partnership which facilitates arts and health initiatives to improve lives and reduce pressure on health and care services has been renewed. 

Six years after first signing, the Welsh NHS Confederation (WNHSC) and Arts Council of Wales (ACW) have renewed their Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)  to further improve awareness of the benefits the arts can bring to health and wellbeing and create a more equal, cultural and sustainable Wales.

The partnership has previously received international recognition, with a global study on arts and health conducted by Lancet Public Health stating “this memorandum is one of the most concrete commitments we found, both in terms of the intersectoral approach and the specific investment and action”. 

This recognition was further evidenced last week by a major report published by the National Centre for Creative Health and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing, the Creative Health Review: How Policy Can Embrace Creative Health. The landmark report adds to mounting evidence that “creative health needs to form an integral part of a 21st-century health and social care system to reduce health inequalities, increase life expectancy and build social capital”.   

The report features evidence of best practice from the WNHSC and ACW, highlighting the MoU, which enables arts and health capacity building at a national level. An arts and health capacity building programme has introduced and developed arts and health coordinator roles in all seven health boards in Wales and has since been rolled out in Velindre University NHS Trust. An evaluation of the programme in Wales published last year found evidence that arts and health roles within the NHS improves the health and wellbeing of patients, staff and the wider population. Moving forward, the programme is looking to further embed the model into mainstream commitment in the NHS long-term strategic plan and Welsh Government policy.

Emma Woollett, chair of the Welsh NHS Confederation, said: “We are delighted to continue our strong relationship with the Arts Council of Wales and sign this MoU for a third time, which is much more than a written agreement. It has enabled us to take action in partnership, leading to tangible outcomes which has been independently proven to improve patient and staff experience and population health and wellbeing. 

“To face up to the monumental challenges facing the health and care system in Wales, we must think more holistically and broadly than traditional, clinical treatment of ill health. Prevention is key to the health and wellbeing of our society now and in the future and the programmes borne from this partnership are both innovative and person centred.”

Maggie Russell, chair of the Arts Council of Wales, said: “We are extremely proud of everything our partnership with the Welsh NHS Confederation has achieved over the last six years and are keen to build on this momentum and progress moving forward. 

“Amid mounting evidence of the benefits of the arts and creativity on our physical and mental health and wellbeing, this groundbreaking partnership has helped drive the development of arts and health in Wales. Our latest MoU is far more than words on paper, it’s a renewed commitment to further joint action as we steer the next phase of creative growth across the NHS in Wales – supporting a holistic approach to health and wellbeing we can all be proud of.”  

    • The Creative Health Review outlines the immense benefits of an arts and health approach and advocates for its immediate, widespread adoption, making recommendations to support the UK Government, elected mayors and policymakers in maximising the potential of creative health. Case studies in the report show how creative health can reduce pressure on health and social care services both by preventing the onset of ill health and by supporting the management of long-term conditions, offering patients effective, non-clinical approaches that reduce reliance on healthcare services and result in cost savings.
    • About the Welsh NHS Confederation
      The Welsh NHS Confederation represents the seven local health boards; three NHS trusts; Health Education and Improvement Wales; and Digital Health and Care Wales. We are part of the NHS Confederation and host NHS Wales Employers. We support our members by acting as a driving force for positive change through strong representation, facilitating system leadership and our proactive policy, influencing, communications, events and engagement work.
    • About the Arts Council of Wales 
      The Arts Council of Wales is the country’s official public body for funding and developing the arts. Every day, people across Wales are enjoying and taking part in the arts. We help to support and grow this activity. We do this by using the public funds that are made available to us by the Welsh Government and by distributing the money we receive as a good cause from the National Lottery. By managing and investing these funds in creative activity, the Arts Council contributes to people’s quality of life and to the cultural, social and economic well-being of Wales.

About us

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.