Thursday, 24 March 2016

Developing a social prescribing service at Art in Healthcare based on an Occupational Therapy model Part 3

Thursday 24th March 2016

Following on from the fourth and final art workshop of our social prescribing service for referred patients of Baronscourt Surgery, we held a Celebration Event last week, at the Surgery, with patient's artworks newly framed and hung. The event was indisputably a happy one, full of chatter, cooing at artworks and laughter with patients, GPs, Art in Healthcare staff and volunteers amongst others. The surgery, which was closed to the public for the afternoon for staff training, took on the feel of a public gallery opening, an entirely different atmosphere to the hours when open as a GP surgery. 

Four of five participants attended the event with the fifth reluctantly unwell. All seemed proud to see their artwork hung on the walls and were pleased to pose for photographs beside their work. One lady brought along cakes for the event, consistent with having voluntarily brought along biscuits and milk to each of the four workshops. She also brought flowers for myself as the project coordinator and a card for the artist, which felt a sign that she had got significant value from the workshops prescribed for her at the surgery, over and above any medicines that she might otherwise have been prescribed in the past.

The GPs attending the event, over and above our GP partner in the project, seemed considerably impressed with both the finished artworks now hanging the walls of their workplace as with the purpose of the project and questions were asked universally about 'what happens next?'. On a short term basis, while the workshops have finished, we can be assured that the patients have formed friendships throughout the project that already sees them making plans to get together for coffees and art meetups. On a longer term basis, I am working on a substantial report that will draw together the key learning from this project and serve to inform future planning for similar projects, as for contributing to funding applications that may support further art projects at Baronscourt Surgery and beyond.

Meanwhile, I am partway through my Occupational Therapy 1:1 evaluations with the patients that aim to gather key feedback on both their participation in the project and regarding the goals we set together at the outset. These sessions are also a chance for us to discuss what happens now for patients with regards to art and how they might build art and creativity into their lives on a longer term basis as a contribution to their health and wellbeing.

What's become resoundingly clear is that this project has had significant social benefits for all participants, getting them out of their homes to integrate and form friendships with previously unknown people in their local community; patients have stepped out of their comfort zones to try a new activity and realized what they can actually achieve, raising their self-esteem in the process; and participants have all expressed themselves immeasurably through the creation of artworks, many of which now hang proudly on the walls of Baronscourt Surgery for every visitor and GP to see. Now that is what I call a successful prescription for someone with enduring mental health needs. 

A full report on the project is available at: 

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

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.