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What purpose does Art have in Hospitals?

Posted by Anna Matthams on 11th December 2013

What purpose does Art have in Hospitals?

Well, in an environment where science and medicine save lives and treats illnesses, it may be difficult for many to understand the role that art can play. Yet, the integration of the arts into healthcare is becoming increasingly commonplace as the supporting evidence base grows.

CEO Scott Phillips at Royal Free Hospital

Scott & Eden Trying out the Rise Art Packs

Chelsea and Westminster Health Charity has long been acknowledged as the leader in the integration of the arts in health to improve patients’ care and experience. From a museum accredited art collection to a performing arts programme, we strive to benefit the patients, families and staff at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. Something that was created during the planning and design of the hospital in 1993; part of the brief put forward to the architects was to include spaces in the public and clinical areas of the building to display art, and to showcase the performing arts. We were the first to seriously consider the benefit that exposure to the arts can have on the health and wellbeing of patients, and led the field both in terms of research and delivery.

We're elated to have an extensive contemporary art collection on display throughout the building that is developing through a programme of acquisitions, ensuring new parts of the hospital have the best and most appropriate art and design. 

c&w hospital

Display donated by Rise Art in Chelsea and Westminster Hospital

Now if you're an empirical-evidence-minded individual listen to this. From 1999 – 2002, we ran a pioneering research project in the hospital that examined the impact of arts on health. ‘A Study of the Effects of Visual and Performing Arts in Healthcare’ provided evidence that the integration of visual and performing arts into the healthcare environment induce psychological, physiological and biological outcomes which could have clinical significance. For example, both live music and visual art significantly reduces patients’ levels of anxiety and depression, which in turn induces an increase in the salivary immunoglobulin A (an indicator of the wellbeing of the immune system) which supports recovery. Duration of labour was over two hours shorter and the requests for epidural analgesia diminished when women in labour were in the presence of an art screen. Patients exposed to visual art and live music during the post-operative period required less analgesia per day and stayed on average one day less in hospital!

Not only can the arts help patients to have an increasingly more positive hospital experience emotionally, but it can also aid their physical recovery, which consequently has cost-saving benefits for the NHS. Healthcare has traditionally followed a medical model, however the modern approach is one of patient-centred care, recognising that 'people who become unwell have needs that are social and psychological. Meeting those needs will improve their health and aid recovery.' The role that the arts can play in this has been proven and, I think, should not be underestimated.

Rise Art Art Kit

Rise Art Art Kit

Rise Art Charity Art Kits

Rise Art's Art for Care donates a children's Art kit to a London hospital every time one of our members makes a purchase. We work closely with Charities and Hospitals in order to give back as much as possible. If you want to learn more about Rise Art's Art for Care click HERE.