Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Developing a social prescribing service at Art in Healthcare based on an Occupational Therapy model Part 2

Monday 8th February 2016

Today we held the first art workshop for patients referred from Baronscourt Surgery as part of our pilot social prescribing service based on an Occupational Therapy model. I met patients at the Surgery along with the artist, Leo du Feu, before we walked with them over to the venue at Piershill Community Flat (PCF). 6 out of 6 patients who were registered turned up, a 100% improvement on the first time we ran the workshops when, despite apparent interest from patients to get involved, no one actually showed up. We had to go back to the drawing board about what might have represented barriers to access for patients and decided people needed to understand more about what was involved and the 'why'. This is how we came to introduce the Occupational Therapy aspect of the project - an informal Art Assessment in which patients would hear more about the project and have the chance to set goals for themselves, hereby taking a clear responsibility for their own health and well-being progression. Unfortunately, one of the patients didn't follow through and actually attend the workshop at the last minute but, she had at least set out to attend it, which was a massive step in itself. 
Image from the first Baronscourt workshop with participants using pastels

The ten minute walk was surprisingly helpful as an extra part of the process, giving patients and artist the chance to informally meet each other and chat, out of the context of the Surgery and before the context of sitting together in the 'art room'. Inevitably there was an air of anticipation amidst all patients and I could sense distinct social nerves that no one knew each other. However, the walk played a clear part in reducing these nerves and people seemed in a more relaxed frame of mind by the time they arrived than when we'd met at the surgery. Sunshine on the walk helped too!

I left patients at PCF in the capable hands of Leo with whom I had discussed previously the key goals and points to note regarding each patient. This meant that both artist and patient were more prepared than either party ever had been for our workshops and I sense this made a significant difference. Leo reported afterwards that the workshop had gone really well, that there had been a lot of conversation, a lot of creativity and a lot of interest in art in general. 

We are very grateful to our two lovely volunteers from Art in Healthcare, Beth Hadshar and Vessela Ivkova, who supported Leo in the workshop and greeted patients with big smiles when they first arrived at the PCF. With thanks also to Alistair McIntyre for hosting the workshop on behalf of the PCF and for providing essential teas and coffees to patients on their arrival!

Image from the first Baronscourt workshop with participants using pastels
Three workshops remain, followed by a Celebration Event, followed by a 1-1 OT Art Evaluation so there's work to be done in assuring the project is a success and in measuring the outcomes. However, we're confident that the building blocks bringing us this far have moved Art in Healthcare significantly along the journey of service development and we're realising that we're able to contribute a great deal more than we ever envisaged as an arts and health charity through using quite a different approach. We feel we're getting to the bottom of exactly how and why the arts can be so beneficial for health and the role that both primary care and artists can play in this, coming at it from two completely different contexts but with one unifying goal.

Amelia Calvert writes as the Outreach Manager of Art in Healthcare and as an Occupational Therapist.

A full report on the project is available at:

Art in Healthcare is an Edinburgh-based charity whose mission is to enhance the health and wellbeing of everyone in Scotland through the visual arts.


  1. What a great article. Thank you. Diverse range of Arts based therapy is another supportive tool for those challenging mental health issues. Look forward to reading how this progresses.

  2. Many thanks Paul. Yes, we're really pleased with how the project has worked and look forward to sharing updates at the end too.

  3. Many thanks Paul. Yes, we're really pleased with how the project has worked and look forward to sharing updates at the end too.