Arts programme to benefit more patients with chronic illness


More patients living with chronic illness will benefit from North Bristol NHS Trust’s award-winning Fresh Arts on Referral programme thanks to a grant from NHS Charities Together.

The funding will expand the pioneering arts programme to an additional 72 patients across Bristol, North Somerset, and South Gloucestershire over the next 12 months. This will include patients living with obesity, drug and alcohol addiction, and neurological conditions, whose mental and social wellbeing has been severely impacted by Covid-19.

Providing a network of support

Patients will be referred by a clinician to a course of expert-led workshops encompassing creative writing, print making, visual art and poetry. The aim of the programme is to promote self-care; build self-esteem; alleviate symptoms of stress, pain, and depression, and create opportunities for patients to meet others with shared experiences of chronic illness.

“It’s as if we have been given a new life, a different way of looking at things. We are enjoying the moment and looking after ourselves.” ~ Fresh Arts of Referral pilot patient.

“I felt calm, happy and relaxed. The group helped me take my mind off my illness.” ~ Fresh Arts on Referral chronic breathlessness patient.

Pioneering programme in an acute hospital setting

Established in 2018, the Fresh Arts on Referral programme is the first of its kind in a UK acute hospital. It supports patients from diagnosis and treatment, to long-term management of their conditions.

“Having already witnessed the impact of our arts programmes for people managing chronic illnesses, we know just how life-changing these projects will be.

“Thanks to NHS Charities Together, and our partners across the city, we can now extend these ground-breaking approaches to even more patients. We’re looking forward to seeing the real, meaningful difference the vast array of projects will make to people across Bristol.”

~ Shiona MacPherson, Southmead Hospital Charity Trusts Manager

A collaborative approach to health and wellbeing

The expansion of the programme is part of a collaborative effort by local health organisations, including Above & Beyond and Bristol Health Partners, to improve the physical health and mental wellbeing of people across the region.

In total, 10 projects will be funded by the NHS Charities Together grant and they will reach people living with dementia, inflammatory rheumatic disease and childhood trauma.

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