Time Being: Difficulties in Integrating Arts in Health

Article excerpt


A programme of 'arts as healthcare', Time Being (TB), was established and delivered as arts on prescription (AoP) by Healing Arts on the Isle of Wight over the period October 2002-March 2005. Its aim was to demonstrate and identify the benefits arising to an individual's health as a result of participation in structured creative programmes and activity, with the objective of the programme becoming part of the locally commissioned NHS services of the primary care trust. Evaluation and testimony from participants demonstrate the impact creativity has in contributing to the improvement in health of an individual and the individual's appreciation and understanding of their own health. The response to the evaluation by the commissioning sector of the NHS, primary care trust, indicates the difficulties and reluctance of this sector to embrace and commission arts in health programmes. The conclusion is that providers such as Healing Arts are required to undertake further detailed cost-benefit, cash-efficiency, and quantified health-gain analysis on the role of arts and creativity as part of healthcare for it to become integrated into NHS healthcare delivery.

Key words

arts on prescription; mental health; integration; health service; creativity


Healing Arts is a department of the Isle of Wight Healthcare NHS Trust. It was set up in 1985 with the brief to provide a comprehensive range of highquality programmes linking the arts with healthcare for people who are recovering from illness in hospital, receiving healthcare at home or in the community, or who are living with a life-altering health condition.

The work of Healing Arts and its development in providing a range of arts in health programmes across the community, served by a district general hospital and community healthcare, is well documented.1-7,18

In 2000 Healing Arts formed a partnership with 19 other statutory and voluntary organisations to form The Isle of Wight Healthy Living Centre (IoW HLC) and to win a grant of £1 million from the New Opportunities Lottery Fund (NOF), over a five-year term, to develop and promote projects and programmes as part of the nationwide HLCs initiative.

Healing Arts proposed two programmes that would seek to establish the link between the arts, creativity and health, and to begin the process of identifying and quantifying the health gains that arise from these activities of arts as part of healthcare.

The two programmes - Time Being (TB) arts in prescription (AoP) and 'Sounds Lively! Choirs' were set up as pilots with strong participant involvement in the evolution of their style and method of delivery, with ongoing consultation and feedback. It was also a key objective from the outset, and part of the NOF's consent to award a grant, to establish the IoW HLC as a stand-alone organization with a majority managing group drawn from persons receiving healthcare or representing patient groups. Their role was to advance the concept and understanding of the healthcare issues arising from the IoW HLC and to seek the agreement of the commissioning department of the NHS - the primary care trust (PCT) - to take forward the funding of the programmes and integrate the structure of the HLC as part of the NHS for the Isle of Wight.

TB had built into its design and delivery schedule an evaluation methodology, based on guidance notes already used in the Isle of Wight Primary Care Mental Health Team (PCMHT).17


TB was designed by Healing Arts for people living with mild to moderate mental health conditions.

The main aim of the programme has been to help participants regain control over their lives, and for them to develop a medium- to long-term plan for their own mental and social well-being. It was designed to offer individuals the opportunity to find time for themselves outside a medical definition of their health needs, in a relaxed and supportive atmosphere. …