GPs prescribing arts activities to some patients could lead to a dramatic fall in hospital admissions and save the NHS money, according to a report into the subject of arts, health and wellbeing published after two years of evidence gathering.
The report, published on Wednesday, includes hundreds of interviews and dozens of case studies showing how powerfully the arts can promote health and wellbeing.
Co-chaired by former arts ministers Alan Howarth and Ed Vaizey, the all-party inquiry contends that the arts can keep people well, aid recovery from illness, help people live longer, better lives and save money in health and social services.
Lord Howarth said it was a comprehensive review of evidence that had never been produced before. “Sceptics say where is the evidence of the efficacy of the arts in health? Where is the evidence of the value for money it can provide? We show it in this report.
“The arts can help people take responsibility for their own health and wellbeing in ways that will be crucial to the health of the nation.”
The report was welcomed by the arts minister, John Glen, appointed five weeks ago. He pledged to act on its recommendations, saying: “This sort of work isn’t window dressing, please don’t be cynical about it. It gives a dataset and some real stories that we can use as we go through the treacle of Whitehall.”
The case studies include an Artlift arts-on-prescription project in Gloucestershire where patients with a wide range of conditions, from depression to chronic pain to stroke, were referred to an eight-week course involving poetry, ceramics, drawing, mosaic or painting.
A cost-benefit analysis showed a 37% drop in GP consultation rates and a 27% reduction in hospital admissions. That represents an NHS saving of £216 per patient.