Creatively Minded and the NHS

Creatively Minded and the NHS

By The Baring Foundation


An overview of participatory arts offered by the NHS to people with mental health problems - featuring NHS Trusts across the UK which offer a range of creative artist-led programmes in both primary and secondary care.

This report in Baring Foundation's Creatively Minded series aims to highlight some examples of NHS organisations which offer people with mental health problems creative opportunities as part of a richer, more holistic approach to recovery, and to ask some initial questions about whether and how this work could be replicated and strengthened.

A Baring Foundation report written by David Cutler.


This report from the Baring Foundation into the role of participatory arts in the NHS for people experiencing mental health challenges is extremely timely. Society has changed dramatically since the creation of the NHS over 70 years ago, and as we look to emerge from the pandemic – and respond to the significant impact it has had on people’s mental health – working in partnership will be essential.

Across the NHS and social care there is now a growing understanding of the impact that taking part in the arts can have on people’s mental health and wellbeing. Access to arts opportunities and participation in the arts can dramatically improve health outcomes and wellbeing, counter inequalities and increase social engagement. And being creative brings particular benefits to people’s mental health: boosting emotional and psychological wellbeing, helping build self-esteem, mitigating social isolation and loneliness and helping promote more cohesive communities. It can also, of course, support the wellbeing of staff working in health and social care.

Partnership working is the cornerstone of our work across arts and health in Wales. Through our Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2017 between the Arts Council of Wales and the Welsh NHS Confederation, we have worked together to raise awareness of the benefits of the arts and advocate for the value and contribution of creative activities in improving mental health and wellbeing. This has never been more relevant or vital as during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Baring Foundation’s long-term commitment to support creative opportunities for people with mental health problems is to be applauded and warmly welcomed. Reports published before the COVID-19 pandemic suggested that nearly one third of people in Wales felt lonely or isolated. This number is now likely to be significantly higher and the future demand for mental health and wellbeing services following the pandemic will undoubtedly also be significant.

This report provides an excellent insight into the existing range of creative interventions within the NHS that are making a real difference to people’s mental health and wellbeing across the UK and offers some innovative models that could be further adopted across the NHS. The report also makes some key recommendations to advance this important work further which deserve serious consideration.

The NHS in Wales recognises that creativity and the arts need to be part of the solution in helping tackling the indirect health consequences of COVID-19 now, and in the future, and we must work with partners across all four nations to provide person-centred care that is both compassionate and joined up across sectors.

Nesta Lloyd-Jones, Assistant Director, Welsh NHS Confederation

Go to the report 

Resource type: Research | Published: 2022