Arts and Wellbeing

The Northern Health and Social Care Trust has for many years been committed to using the Arts to improve the health and wellbeing of patients and clients. In recent years it has become increasingly recognised that art can make a major contribution to health and wellbeing for all. Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing Inquiry Report, 2017 highlighted three key messages:

  • The arts can help keep us well, aid our recovery and support longer lives better lived.
  • The arts can help meet major challenges facing health and social care: ageing, long-term conditions, loneliness and mental health.
  • The arts can help save money in the health service and social care.

The World Health Organisation European Report published in 2019 also highlighted the role of the Arts in improving health and wellbeing. This report found evidence to support the contribution of Arts to the prevention and promotion of good health and also for the treatment and management of acute and chronic conditions across the life-course.

Building a Sustainable and Innovative Model of Arts in Health

In order to help drive the Arts agenda forward within the Northern Trust a Northern Area Arts and Wellbeing Network was established on 31 January 2017. This group is made up of a wide range of staff from various departments within the Trust and also includes representation from Arts Care and several local Councils. A great start has already been made promoting and implementing a wide range of arts initiatives. Some of the key successes are outlined in our Arts and Health Annual Report 2018-19.

Benefits of the Arts in Health

There is an increasing body of evidence indicating that participation in the arts and access to a range of arts opportunities can dramatically improve health outcomes and increase wellbeing. As part of the development of our Arts and Wellbeing Strategy 2020-2025 a wide range of staff, service users and community representatives were consulted. They highlighted the following key benefits of engagement with the arts:

Mental Health

  • Improves mental health and wellbeing, reducing feelings of anxiety, stress and depression
  • Improves emotional health
  • Boosts self-esteem
  • Encourages creative thinking, concentration and motivation
  • Reduces staff burn out and helps create a great place to work

Physical Health

  • Singing, dancing and playing musical instruments increases lung capacity and improves breathing
  • Improved physical health through participation in performing arts

Social Health and Wellbeing

  • Reduces social isolation
  • Improves the healthcare environment and uplifts the mood of staff, service users and visitors
  • Promotes social inclusion and a sense of belonging
  • Provides a sense of pride and achievement through participation in performances and events

How the Arts is delivered in the Northern Health Trust

Arts Care

The Northern Trust works closely with Arts Care, an organisation established in 1991 by the Department of Health and Social services to make all forms of art accessible to service users and staff in health and social care throughout Northern Ireland. By working in partnership with Arts Care, the Trust engages a team of three part-time Artists-in-Residence who deliver programmes with staff and service users. The Northern Trust participates in Arts Care regional programmes including the Here and Now Festival for Older People, the Twilight Project for Cared for Young People and the Red Flag Mental Health and Well-being Young People’s Project.

Staff Health and Wellbeing Initiatives

The Trust has a staff choir and has in recent years provided other initiatives including creative workshops and yoga classes to staff. The Northern Trust is keen to involve staff and volunteers in the arts and has invested in building the capacity of staff to deliver quality arts programmes. Within the last year staff several staff have availed of dance and singing training courses

Arts in acute settings

Several arts initiatives have been delivered in hospital settings across the Trust including painting with patients in the Care of the Elderly wards and arts in the Renal Unit at Antrim Area Hospital, programmes with service users at Holywell Hospital, Antrim and a week of music at Causeway Hospital.

Public Arts

The Northern Trust uses a wide range of public art to enhance the physical environment for patients, staff, services users and carers. This includes a mixture of visual arts, sculpture and installations created professionally and by clients.

Art within Children’s Services

There are huge health and wellbeing benefits for children and young people who participate in the Arts especially in relation to promoting positive mental health and self-esteem. The Northern Trust has facilitated, for several years, Arts Care regional arts-based programmes for children and young people and plans to build on this work and extend the range of programmes available in the future.

Health Information

The Trust has also engaged the Arts in the promotion of health information and key public health messages. This has involved children from primary and secondary schools within the Northern Trust area. One examples of this is the development of stop smoking posters.

Community Arts-based Programmes

The Northern Trust has been involved in the development of a number of arts initiatives, delivered at local community level, with the overall aim of improving health and wellbeing. Singing for Health programmes have been developed in a range of communities including Newtownabbey, Larne and Ballymoney. These have had a huge impact on improving wellbeing and reducing isolation.

Arts within Community Health and Social Care

The Trust has integrated arts within a range of health and social care facilities such as day centres, adult centres, care homes and Base drop-in centres for adults with learning difficulties. Many staff have embraced engagement in the Arts and availed of opportunities to be up skilled.

Northern Area Arts and Wellbeing Strategy

The Northern Trust is committed to the promotion of Arts and Wellbeing. The Trust launched ‘Creating Health Lives Through the Arts: Northern Area Arts and Wellbeing Strategy 2020-25’. The vision for this strategy is ‘to enhance care and enrich the lives of our people through engagement with the Arts’. The key aims include:

  • To improve health and wellbeing through wider access to and involvement in the Arts.
  • To promote Arts and Wellbeing through co-production, implementation and partnership with relevant stakeholders, communities, health and social care providers and service users.
  • To promote and integrate Arts for Wellbeing across the Northern Area.
  • To promote innovation in the use of the Arts in Health & Social Care and measure the impact.

This Strategy was developed in partnership with service users, carer, volunteers, staff and the wider community.

Creating Healthy Lives Through The Arts
Northern Trust Arts And Wellbeing Strategy 2020-25

Implementation of Arts and Wellbeing Strategy

The Northern Arts and Wellbeing Strategy is strongly supported by senior management who are committed to ensuring the key aims are delivered.

The Northern Area Arts and Wellbeing Network will continue to oversee local implementation and set the strategic direction to ensure the sustainability and effectiveness of area wide arts and wellbeing programmes for the local community. This group will be strengthened and developed to play a key role in ensuring that the Strategy is being delivered within the Northern area. This will involve setting Northern wide priorities and helping to ensure sustainability, monitoring and evaluation. In addition to the overarching Network Group, four locality based groups will also be established.

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