New scheme to boost welfare of hospital patients in Northumberland

Northumberland Arts Development and Blyth Valley Arts and Leisure have joined forces with Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

Launch of arts project at Blyth Community Hospital. Left to right, Caroline Beck, Lynne Greig and Stephen Pritchard.
Launch of arts project at Blyth Community Hospital. Left to right, Caroline Beck, Lynne Greig and Stephen Pritchard.

A pioneering new scheme has been set up to boost the wellbeing of hospital patients through art.

Northumberland Arts Development and Blyth Valley Arts and Leisure have joined forces with Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust to set up the first “reader in residence” at Blyth Community Hospital.

There will also be touring art exhibitions visiting sites such as Wansbeck General Hospital and leisure centres in the area.

The project, led and funded by the three organisations, is part of Northumbria Healthcare’s long-standing healing arts programme which uses art as a therapeutic medium to improve the hospital environment for patients, particularly the elderly, as well as visitors and staff.

Caroline Beck, from writing development agency New Writing North, will be the reader in residence at Blyth Community Hospital and is to develop a reading and radio project through a series of active workshops.

The initiative will culminate in an online archive and website.

Caroline has more than 20 years’ experience recording people’s stories for BBC radio programmes such as Radio 4’s Today, Woman’s Hour and Costing The Earth.

Lynne Greig, modern matron at Blyth hospital, said: “We are delighted to be involved in this exciting project which aims to promote and improve the wellbeing of our patients through the arts.

“The reader in residence project is a fantastic opportunity to build on the work already under way to improve the social interaction of our patients while celebrating the rich and diverse lives and stories of the many elderly people we care for.

“We know that reminiscing with patients or talking to them about old times can make such a difference to them and really improve their mental wellbeing. We look forward to producing an archive we can use in the future.”

Anna Disley, of New Writing North, added: “We have found that the act of reading aloud to people in small groups unleashes a flood of memories connected to words.

“Listening to and reflecting on poems, short stories and novels, can encourage people to express thoughts and feelings that it may otherwise be difficult for them to access, so in care settings reading aloud is a particularly powerful tool.”

In addition, an exhibition showcasing artists, schools, colleges and community groups, will tour the two hospitals as well as leisure centres in Blyth and Cramlington.

Stephen Pritchard, from Dot to Dot Active Arts, has been appointed as co-ordinator for the tours.

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