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The Covid-19 crisis is predicted to cause long-lasting damage to the creative industries. Given the outpouring of support from the creative community for the NHS, should the NHS look to return the favour? We share our view.

It was the perfect recipe for success: the indefatigable Colonel Tom Moore in concert with the NHS Care Choir and the national treasure that is Michael Ball. Not only did they catapult ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ to number one in the UK charts, it nudged the centenarian Colonel Moore closer to a staggering total of £30 million raised for the NHS.

If only the creative industries were facing the same financial fortune. According to the Creative Industries Federation, over 50% of creative organsiations have lost 100% of their income, and only 1 in 7 have reserves to make it past this month. The sobering fallout for many creatives will be their employment prospects laid to waste, unless the Government and others intervene.

From the outset of the crisis, creatives have rallied to the support of the NHS. Take Liam Gallagher, for example, who will be hosting free concerts for NHS staff. Or the donation of PPE by Burberry, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s charity release of ‘Fleabag Live’ that has already raised over $1 million. Creatives are also lending practical support on the ground: some have gifted their time after performances were cancelled, and some, like Martin Harding, have joined the NHS workforce. Add to this the creative practitioners and institutions who have created the remote opportunities for artistic expression that bolster our mental wellbeing, it becomes clear how supportive the creative community has been of our collective health in this time of crisis.

 

The therapeutic value of art is an asset we must use. A partnership between arts organisations and health organisations has the power to improve access to the arts and to health services for people neglected by both.

Robert Webster, Chief Executive, NHS South West Yorkshire Partnership

So, when things settle into a new normal, what could the NHS be doing to return the favour? First, NHS trusts should sustain – if not increase – their financial support for arts and cultural organisations that enhance patient experience and professional practice through creative means. NHS and STP/ICS commissioners could also look at how arts and cultural organisations fit within their strategic planning for care delivery and workforce transformation. As the 2017 All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing report ‘Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing’ highlights, this form of investment is mutually beneficial – creatives gain employment, patient outcomes improve and the NHS and local authorities save money. In short, the NHS could stand to benefit from its own altruism.

The NHS could also explore what further opportunities creatives could have within its wider workforce. Health roles are rare in that they are flexible, portable, and are societally beneficial. The registered professions also pay well enough to help creatives afford to live in global culture capitals like London. This is why they should appeal to creatives, but the cost of study is a known deterrent, as is selectivity bias in course recruitment. NHS trusts can advocate for a more open approach to student recruitment, particularly in areas where science remains an entry requirement, and explore how routes like apprenticeships can help creatives translate their capabilities into clinical care.

Finally, the NHS might consider expanding its arts therapy workforce. Arts therapy is a registered health profession with known therapeutic value, but NHS England employs fewer than 500 arts therapists. The charity, Mind, highlights that this can make it hard to access this form of therapy, particularly for those who cannot afford private services. Given that many experts are predicting that the crisis will lead to long-lasting psychological trauma for some, including many within the NHS and care, it seems appropriate to ask whether more universally available arts therapy would help. If so, the NHS should advocate for parity in terms of student support, as arts therapy is ineligible for the forms of financial support on offer for the other registered professions.

These suggestions aren’t to diminish the enormous contribution of the NHS to the creative community – and in some instances, the NHS and the creative community are one in the same. The purpose is also not to diminish or neglect the integration of arts into health that is already happening, but rather highlight how the NHS can help at what is a particularly hard time for many performers, artists, musicians and other creatives. Both sides stand to gain from working together on what is already a shared goal – to make life better.

Lydia

30th April 2020