Orchestras in Healthcare report: almost two thirds of professional orchestras are working in health, wellbeing and social care across the UK
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At a glance

A new report 'Orchestras in Healthcare' offers a comprehensive picture of the creative and financial contribution made by professional orchestras to the health, wellbeing and social care sectors across the UK.

Conceived by Sarah Derbyshire (Chief Executive, Orchestras Live), Fiona Harvey (Education and Youth Ensembles Consultant, Association of British Orchestras) and Matthew Swann (Chief Executive, City of London Sinfonia) the report seeks to understand the scale and impact of the work orchestras delivered in a range of public health contexts between April 2019 and March 2020.

From interactive music workshops for people living with dementia on hospital wards in Edinburgh to a creative expression and social interaction project for adults recovering from drug and alcohol addiction in Bristol, live performances in specialist cancer facilities in Northern Ireland to composition workshops with young people from across London and the South East living with severe mental health and psychiatric conditions, the report highlights the wealth of participatory music-making happening in health, wellbeing and social care contexts up and down the UK.

Drawn from a survey of 54 ABO member orchestras, opera companies and choirs, the report reveals the geographical location and type of healthcare settings in which the work takes place; orchestras’ motivation for their involvement in the healthcare sector and the role health and wellbeing delivery plays in their business models; as well as exploring the impact of Covid-19 and the role orchestras and musicians aspire to play in the UK’s recovery from the pandemic.

Key findings:

  • Almost two thirds of professional orchestras surveyed (63%) deliver work in health, wellbeing and social care settings across the UK. Of the remaining 37%, most stated that they wish or have plans to do so in the future.

50% are working in hospitals (31% in acute settings, 19% in chronic settings)

22% are working in mental health settings

31% are working in social care settings

  • This contribution is significant: representing a net gain of at least £1.6m to the public health sector of which 93% (£1.48m) was raised by orchestras themselves
  • Chamber orchestras are at the forefront of developments in health and wellbeing activity and partnerships
  • There is great pride in this work: 53% of orchestras identified health and wellbeing work as central to their business model in serving wider audiences and making a positive impact on society
  • There is considerable geographical unevenness in provision: particularly across the English regions. It is notable that Scotland and Greater Manchester – two areas where orchestras have formal links with a social prescribing programme – each operate devolved health authorities.
  • A robust infrastructure for social prescribing to better connect the culture and healthcare sectors is developing apace – as noted by James Sanderson, Chief Executive of the National Academy of Social Prescribing: “enabling people to connect to music…is recognised by the health and care system as being valuable to its future.”
  • It meets an orchestral sector ambitious to play a greater role in a range of health, wellbeing and care contexts as the nation emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The upcoming ABO Conference (10-12 March) will further explore the findings of the report in a session chaired by Sarah Derbyshire MBE and Matthew Swann. A Healthier Nation (11 March, 2pm) will bring together leading funders and healthcare professionals to discuss the implications of the social prescribing agenda and the role orchestras can play to restore the health and wellbeing of the nation.

The full report is available on the ABO, City of London Sinfonia and Orchestras Live websites.

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