Social Prescribing – Bringing the ‘Life-Changing’ Power of Arts to People in Need

The National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP) is a charity who aim to help people live the best life they can through social prescribing.  Last year they published new evidence briefing social prescribing: arts, heritage, and culture.

The evidence supports the important role of arts, heritage and culture play in strategies to support health and wellbeing, including through social prescribing, and especially for those living with long term conditions and/or experiencing health inequalities. It highlights the importance of collaboration across health and culture and that demand is increasing along with some of the challenges and areas of concern such as that those who live in deprived areas having less access to community resources.

It outlines that co-design and co-production appear to be effective ways to implementing arts, heritage and culture programmes within primary care and social prescribing.  A key element that comes up is the need for effective partnerships with stakeholders and community organisations alongside ‘buy in’ by frontline workers and partnerships with arts practitioners and community assets such as museums, cafes, libraries, galleries, theatres etc.

In summery is agreed that there is a large body of evidence showing that taking part in arts and culture can lead to a wide range of health and wellbeing benefits, however, there is a need to publicise and share this evidence more widely in order to effect change’?

This is one of many evidence reports available from the National Academy for Social prescribing, Find out more and read the reports at Evidence – National Academy for Social Prescribing | NASP (

NASP support a range of grassroots groups and national charities who offer socially prescribed activities, connect the health system to the work that’s happening in communities, help medical professionals, including Social Prescribing Link Workers and students, work with leading researchers to build more evidence for social prescribing, develop effective new approaches to common problems and champion social prescribing across the world.

Their latest public campaign, Social Prescribing & Me, aims to raise awareness about the incredible impact social prescribing can have on people’s lives. You can follow it on #SocialPrescribingAndMe.

A New Report Links Participation in Arts and Culture to Longer, Healthier Lives

Most research available looks at the short-term impacts, however, by using data from cohort studies that have been tracking large numbers of people throughout their lives, this report gives an insight into the long-term impacts.

The Social Biobehavioural Research Group at UCL, examined evidence from over 320,000 participants across the world revealing new insights into how engagement with arts and culture is linked to a long and healthy life.  These include more positive health and social behaviours in children and young people, better mental health in adulthood, lower risks of depression and dementia in later life and lover levels of chronic pain and fragility and even longer lives. It also found that these positive relationships hold even when factors such as demographics, socio-economic position, medical history and past arts engagement are taken into account.

Understanding the longer-term findings, not only make for interesting reading, and may help influence policymakers, healthcare professionals and arts practitioners to take the chance to reimagine how arts and culture can play a role in the prevention, treatment and managing illness.

Dr Daisy Fancourt, Associate Professor of Psychobiology and Epidemiology, Head of Social Biobehavioural Research Group says: “What we’ve found is that the arts have a unique and important role to play throughout our lives, helping us to stay well and live longer. But we also know that access to cultural experiences is unequal and not everyone is benefiting as they should. We therefore urge policymakers, funders, health and cultural organisations to consider how they are supporting more equitable, high-quality arts engagement for everyone as a pillar of public health.”

The Social Biobehavioural Research Group at UCL has published over 70 academic papers linking arts and culture engagement to people’s health and wellbeing since 2017.

The full report, and four short policy briefings, can be found here:

Dundee Celebrates 20 Years of Tackling Health Inequalities Through a Community-Led Approach

A CELEBRATION marking 20 years of bringing together local people with professionals to support health and wellbeing has been held in Dundee. The Dundee Community Health team led discussions and workshops focused on future developments and strengthening community voices in decision-making.

Speaking at the event, council leader John Alexander said: “Tackling health inequalities is one of the city’s key priorities with a strong commitment to improving health and narrowing the health gap over the next 10 years featuring prominently in the city and council plans.

“We know that people in our more disadvantaged communities face barriers to good health and wellbeing and that income, housing, the environment, green space, education, quality of life and social relationships play an important part in keeping people healthy and well. Unfortunately, some people through no fault of their own will struggle with their health and wellbeing and may have limited control or influence to change their life circumstances.

“That is where the Community Health team and its predecessors have shown that people in Dundee are committed to being part of the solution, and when they are given positive opportunities and support, they have taken action and made the most of the resources at their disposal.”

Planning and delivery of the event was taken on by local people and by members of the Community Health Advisory Forum, a new platform for supporting individuals to influence health-related decisions. As well as professionals in the field, the event heard from Dundee residents who have benefited from support over the years, including healthy eating on a budget, recovery groups, cooking courses, healthy lifestyle groups, walking groups, gardening groups and support to manage stress and improve mental health.

The Dundee Community Health team aims to provides training to community groups and service providers on poverty sensitive practice, health inequalities, mental health and stigma; leadership for local health and wellbeing networks; and supports local people to recognise the wider influences on health through accredited Health Issues in the Community Courses which equips them to be involved in decision-making and collective action in their communities.

Watch the video celebrating 20 years at CHT 20yrs – YouTube

Source: Dundee City Council/News

SMHAF 2023: ‘Revolution’

The Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival (SMHAF) is due to take place from 4-22 October 2023.  The theme this year is ‘Revolution’ which was chosen to reflect a desire to address the impact of economic barriers and social inequality on mental health.

SMHAF 2023 will be an exercise in ‘art as activism’, with a programme designed as a collective statement and manifesto for social change, asking questions like – What needs to happen for everyone to have the opportunity to live mentally healthier lives? and How can we be more radical when it comes to mental health and the arts?

This year’s festival opens with Manifesto, a one-day, agenda-setting arts and mental health event in Glasgow on Wednesday 4th October. Manifesto will combine performance, film screenings, workshops, discussions, and a celebratory closing live music event. They plan to document and present this day of activity online as a collective mental health arts manifesto, to which they hope to continue adding more material from other events across Scotland as the festival progresses.  The full programme is available later this year.

Get Involved

In your local area – There is still time for communities, organisations and artists from across Scotland to get involved by supporting and developing events in your local area. These can include exhibitions, creative workshops, performances, live music, film screenings, discussion events, and much more – anything that uses the arts or creativity to engage people in mental health. To find out how to get involved or to request an event submission form, contact Rob Dickie, Arts and Festival Officer at the Mental Health Foundation,

Writing Competition – The 10th annual writing competition is open for entries and there are a series of workshops over the summer to encourage and support new entrants to submit their work. This year they are looking for new writing that explores mental health through the theme of ‘Revolution’. The closing date is midnight on Monday 28th August. Read the full guidelines and submit your application here. Submit

About the Festival

SMHAF is an annual programme to support the arts, explore how engagement in the arts can help prevent mental ill health and challenge preconceived ideas about mental health. It is led by the Mental Health Foundation and is supported by our national partners: Creative Scotland, Thrive Edinburgh, Edinburgh Health & Social Care Partnership, Baring Foundation, See Me, NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde, and Scottish Recovery Network. Find out more at Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival – Home (

Scotland’s Singing for Health Network Workshop

In March this year Scotland’s Singing for Health Network ran a workshop looking at social prescribing, funding, training and safeguarding. They have just published a report identifying key challenges in delivering Singing Health services in Scotland, and what Scotland’s Singing for Health Network are doing to address these challenges.

The workshop programme included a range of speakers including Clare McBrien from Givin’ It Laldie, Alison Leitch from the Scottish Social Prescription Network, and Anne Gallacher from Luminate and those in attendance represented social prescribers and link workers, academics, third sector representatives from arts-health, creative aging and other charities and singing group leaders from across Scotland.

Throughout the day they discussed their concerns, thoughts, and ideas on the funding problem and support for practitioners regarding training and safeguarding from those who benefit from, rely on, or indeed, work to provide Singing for Health services in Scotland.

One of the key areas that came up in the discussion was the need to be clear that social prescribing is not free. In the report they highlight that pressures on NHS resources may be resolved via social prescription, but it is unsustainable to expect the third sector to carry this burden.

Currently, many of the singing practitioners and groups are under constant pressure to identify funding to ensure their groups can run, while also preparing for and leading sessions, and providing pastoral support for group members. This requires time, expertise, and appropriate safeguarding of the practitioner.

Other key observations and takeaways under social prescribing and the funding issue included:

  • Practitioners are experienced professionals that should not be expected to work on a voluntary basis.
  • Social prescription requires resources for sustainable longevity.
  • Social prescription needs to be more accessible for GPs and service users.
  • There is a need for valid and widely available evidence base and ongoing evaluation.
  • There is currently no appointed minister for social prescription.
  • The NHS must work with third sector organisations to achieve positive outcomes.
  • Wider awareness of health benefits (via research/evidence) and organisations (via a hub/map) is needed to encourage buy in from GPs.
  • A Scottish Government initiative for social prescription would enable the necessary resources to be invested into achieving a sustainable model across Scotland.
  • A unified payment structure for link workers across Scotland is necessary as part of a sustainable model.
  • A joined-up approach with higher education could provide the resources needed to carry out appropriate evaluation and to help manage the data generated.

They also considered the importance of safeguarding practitioners health and wellbeing and support models including formal mentorship programme, counselling and therapy, or peer-to-peer learning.

Scotland’s Singing for Health Network provides a space for a diverse community of singing practitioners, health professionals, and researchers working on singing and health, to come together to share knowledge, ideas, and practice and to open up avenues for communication between individuals and organisations.

You can read the full report or download it at Workshop-Report-1.pdf (

ACHWS Creative Health Conversation: Building Healthy Communities

Join us for our next online conversation on the 22 August 10.30-11.30am as we discuss the role of arts and collaboration in building healthy communities with:

  • Robert Livingston, former CEO at Regional Screen Scotland
  • Craig Crosthwaite, Coordinator of North Ayrshire Foodbank
  • Ellie Swanston – a visual and participatory artist based in North Ayrshire
  • Hosted by Robbie McGhee, Chair, Arts Culture Health and Wellbeing Scotland

Book your place here


The session will explore questions like – How can healthy communities lead to healthy people?  What is the role for arts and culture in the community? Can it work in practice? Can inequality affect the places and communities in which we live?

Craig and Ellie will highlight The North Ayrshire Foodbank journey from tackling food poverty to becoming a community hub with their Mobile Cinema and artist in residence projects and Robert will outline the role of cinema in rural communities across Scotland and why healthy communities really matter.

Robert Livingston – For the last 8 years Robert has been CEO of Regional Screen Scotland which provides advice and information on setting up local screen facilities, operates the Screen Machine mobile cinema, manages devolved grant aid programmes, and advocates for the social and economic benefits of cinema for local communities. He has worked in theatre, broadcasting, the visual arts, festivals, venue management and arts development, and most recently in cinema and film exhibition, and who has also worked closely with the heritage and museums sector.

Craig Crosthwaite – is the Coordinator and one of the founders of the North Ayrshire Foodbank which first opened its doors in 2012. It then set up the Mobile Cinema – a family-oriented movie every Friday with free admission and any proceeds from the sale of snacks and drinks going to the children’s holiday meal club – Make A Meal Of It.

Ellie Swanston – is a visual and participatory artist based in North Ayrshire who is currently running Everyone an Artist – a free 6 week art workshop for adults in partnership with the North Ayrshire Foodbank across July and August. The workshops are open to any adults who wish to take part- anyone can be an artist and has the ability to be creative- everyone should be able to access facilities to let that happen.

This is part of a series of conversations happening which will include looking at the role culture can play in supporting health outcomes. Follow us to find out about future events on Facebook Twitter @achwscotland and LinkedIn

Welcome to the new ACHWS Development Coordinator


ACHWS is looking to achieve the ambitions set out in our strategic plan, but in order to do that we needed someone to work with the Board of Trustees to develop scope and strengthen the impact of the network. We sourced funding and outlined a brief for a Development Coordinator and are delighted to announce the appointment of Nancy Riach who joined the team in June. You can contact her on

Nancy will be the day-to-day contact for ACHWS and will be supporting the board to activate the ambition strategic plan including arranging an online and in person events programme, build the network, sharing information, research, best practice and case studies through our social media and our e-bulletin as well as creating opportunities for discussion and collaboration and collating feedback to inform and advise government.

Nancy joins us with spent over 30 years working in and around the arts and culture sector and has a diverse range of knowledge and experience. She has held various senior roles specifically focused on communications, stakeholder management, business planning, event management and development. Nancy has a broad range of experience from grassroots community projects to two of Scotland’s National Performing Companies and The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

You can contact Nancy to say hello, let her know about projects you are working on, ways we can support you, events or topics you are interested in or anything else you want to talk to us about.

The Long Term Impact of Youth Theatre Participation

Youth Theatre Arts Scotland teamed up with the Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities to carry out a research project into the long-term impacts of participation in youth theatre. Last week, they published a full report and eight case studies, which help to prove the life-changing impact of youth theatre on participants’ professional and personal lives.

The report evidences a positive impact on participants’confidence, emotional intelligence, resilience, teamwork and leadership skills, emotional wellbeing, and broadened horizons. The findings are being communicated to key policymakers, funders, and network members, and YTAS hopes to use them to shape future planning and delivery in the youth theatre sector.


Coming Together | Arts, Culture, Health, Wellbeing + Climate

On the 23rd of September ACHWS held on online event with a focus on climate. Chris Fremantle with input from Lauren Blair, Laurie Duffy, Victoria Hume, Kieran Jack, Gemma Kitson, Leila Loder, Jackie Sands, and Ben Twist reports on what was discussed.

Culture and the arts have a key role at the intersection of health & wellbeing and the climate and biodiversity crises – this was the clear conclusion of the first session held in Scotland focused on the issue.

With speakers from the largest NHS Board in Scotland, the lead organisation focused on greening the arts in Scotland, a socially engaged arts organisation working in a post-industrial context in the West of Scotland, and from a key representative organisation in England, this event scoped out the complexity as well as the opportunities for arts, culture, health and wellbeing to engage with environment. The event was put together in collaboration with Voluntary Health Scotland  .

Arts and Sustainability – A New Agenda

The session led off with a presentation from NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde (NHSGGC). This highlighted both the significant challenges for Health Boards as well as demonstrating the role of the arts in addressing these challenges.

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Kieran Jack (Assistant Sustainability Officer) led off by highlighting David Attenborough’s statement “Anything we can’t do for ever is by definition unsustainable”. Kieran highlighted the range of challenges including the ‘estate’ (all the buildings and landscapes that an NHS Board is responsible for) as well as the transport, food, and waste challenges.

Kieran highlighted the new standards for buildings that the NHS are working to which has resulted in the new Clydebank Health Centre having heat pumps in the Clyde. Heat pumps take ambient warmth in the river water and turn it into heat for the building. He went to say that NHSGGC is commissioning its first fully net carbon zero health centre.

Gemma Kitson (Greenspace and Urban Realm Officer) discussed the significant challenges for the NHS in turning its traditionally mown grass greenspaces into biodiversity hotspots. She noted the close correlation between disadvantaged communities and areas of ‘vacant and derelict land’ (a specific category for the Scottish Government and Local Authority planning.

Gemma highlighted numerous specific initiatives across NHSGGC to improve landscapes including at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital. This agenda has very strong ongoing collaborative work with the arts. Jackie Sands (Health Improvement Senior: Arts and Health) picked up the story talking about the partnership work with Scottish Canals which has resulted in a significant green corridor linking the new Woodside, Possil and Maryhill health centres and the Clay Pits Nature Reserve via the opening up of a public access route the Garscube link as part of the Woodside Health and Care Centre art and environment strategy. Amongst the artworks on the route are some of the last pieces of poetry, earth and climate messages to us all, made by the eminent Scottish writer Alasdair Gray. Jackie highlighted the evidence base for arts & health work, in particular Janet Ruiz’ Literature Review. This drew attention to the overlaps in creating quality places, green amenity for community respite and active travel as part of Public Health cross boundary working, community wealth building and the work being taken forward to improve GGC estate helping residents to see value in accessing, making use of these sites and spaces – strengthening the health service Anchor status.

Leila Loder (Waste Officer) picked up the story and highlighted two specific areas of waste – food and plastic. She noted the multiple challenges for reducing waste including staff habits, internal space and infection control. Leila highlighted the impact of a project at Stobhill and Victoria hospitals which had saved NHSGGC £19,000 simply by separating waste effectively.

The value of partnership work between the sustainability team’s different agenda’s and the arts came across very clearly and the potential for the arts to align with NHSGGC’s net zero strategy is increasingly a priority. There was an interesting discussion on the potential for embedding an artist within the Sustainability Team and having a Sustainability Lead for Health Improvement too.

Climate Awards

The second presentation came from Victoria Hume of the Culture Health and Wellbeing Alliance (CHWA), the equivalent of ACHWS in England.

CHWA is a national membership organisation for creative health, with about 6000 members from freelancers to large cultural institutions – and a range of national and regional strategic partnerships. Its three pillars of work are advocacy, networking, and providing resources for the people doing and seeking to understand this work.

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Victoria focused on CHWA’s Climate Awards which have now formed part of their programme for 3 years. 18 projects have been shortlisted over the 3 years and Victoria offered some findings from reviewing this portfolio. She highlighted that the arts & health sector has tenacity – it has been a long and challenging journey to mainstream the arts in health and wellbeing. The projects shortlisted for the Climate Awards suggest several themes including an increasing awareness of the lived experience of climate change, and a focus on skills-development for participants – from horticulture to design and planning. Many offered support for physical and/or mental health. Most of the projects depended on robust and often extensive local partnership to maximise their impact. Often, the arts were specifically used to challenge entrenched systems and create discussion and change, while heritage programmes and cultural buildings offered spaces in which activism and learning could be cultivated.

Victoria noted a positive shift in the last few years, whereby funders and commissioners may be more willing to support work that sees climate and health as intersecting issues, and perhaps beginning to move away from siloes of socially engaged practice.

CHWA’s starter-for-10 resource on climate and health can be found here.

Clyde Rebuilt

The final presentation focused on Clyde Rebuilt , a climate adaptation project involving Creative Carbon Scotland (CCS), the lead organisation for greening the arts in Scotland, and RIG Arts, the socially engaged arts organisation in Greenock.

Ben Twist (Director of CCS) provided the overarching context for adaptation – a key area of work focused on the challenges of being resilient to climate change. Whilst the focus has been on ‘mitigation’ of climate change by actions to reduce carbon emissions, there is increased attention to adaptation, particularly of infrastructure.

Clyde Rebuilt was funded as part of the EU’s Climate KIC Innovation Programme which aims to stimulate regional innovation in adaptation. Clyde Rebuilt was led by Climate Ready Clyde, a consortium of local government (7 local authorities), transport, health and other agencies. Creative Carbon Scotland brought the cultural dimension to the table and Ben highlighted the important impacts on the project of the work with Glasgow Women’s Library (GWL) and Rig Arts. He described the way the event at GWL framed the climate crisis in terms of colonialism.

The EIT Climate-KIC approach focused on changing the system rather than individual behaviour change. The Clyde Rebuilt team decided to focus on adapting to excess heat, which is not much considered in Glasgow (!) rather than the more obvious topic of flooding, which is where some work has already been done. A key element of the work done was building a map of the complex social system within which excess heat will be dealt with, to understand who might need to be involved. This included working with organisations which wouldn’t normally be invited to be part of climate change discussion such as housing associations and community groups. They also undertook a Social Impact Assessment. CCS worked with the Climate Ready Clyde Board and those organisations involved in the SIA to introduce more emotion and different ways of thinking into meetings by starting them with poetry – either reading it or running a short workshop on writing it – and ‘imagining exercises’, whereby participants were asked to imagine themselves in a transformed Glasgow in 2045. A survey suggested this increased participation in the meetings. Evaluation of the impacts of this work is available here.

CCS also worked on changing and simplifying the language used to communicate about adaptation, and by working with Rig Arts and Glasgow Women’s Library brought different voices into the discussion.

Laurie Duffy the lead artist for RIG Arts on the Clyde Rebuilt project introduced the organisation. RIG Arts is an award winning, socially engaged arts charity based in Inverclyde bringing artists and the community together in a collaborative and creative way. RIG Arts design and deliver a dynamic programme of visual arts & film projects, workshops, exhibitions, public artworks, community spaces and events. They use creativity to work with people to affect change in Urban Regeneration, Climate Challenge, Heritage and Mental Health. RIG Arts are passionate about using creativity and innovation to influence change and to make a positive difference in people’s lives and their environments. They have also collaborated with NHSGGC on other projects including the New Greenock Health and Care Centre’s Building Better Healthcare Award winning collaborative arts strategy ‘Lochs , Rivers and Sea – Found, Fragmented and Forgotten’ project, led by Lead Artist and Curator Stephen Hurrel.

Laurie described how their approach to Clyde Rebuilt grew out of ongoing programmes focused on working with communities on mental health involving projects on upcycling. Until that point, Rig Arts had not looked at adaptation so this was a new area for them. Working with a poet and a collage artist, workshop participants were sent surprise activity packs so they could write poetry and draw maps of an adapted Inverclyde. Workshops were then held on-line as Clyde Rebuilt was disrupted by the Covid-19 lockdown. The results are available here and the zine Costa Del Gourock.

At Glasgow Women’s Library a speaker Dana Thomas, who works with the Ubuntu Woman’s Shelter, an organisation working with migrants who have no recourse to public funds, highlighted the links between climate change and colonialism and sought to change the discourse and perspective from a western, white-focused one to one which acknowledges how a colonial framing still pervades both action and discussion. This opened up new avenues of thought for a local authority officer present who responded, as well as the audience.

The major takeaway Laurie and Ben highlighted was the difference in response to the adaptation from those involved professionally and those who were involved as inhabitants. The former focused on organisational issues such as buildings, infrastructure and risk registers, whereas the latter asked questions such as ‘What if I can’t leave my home?’ and ‘What if my home isn’t suitable during a heatwave?’

The chat included various useful references:

Thanks to Voluntary Health Scotland and in particular Lauren Blair for hosting and support with chat.




Grampian Hospital Arts Trust | New Artist Commissions

GHAT are looking for 2 artists to help us develop a sustainable model for arts and well-being in rural areas.

Co-create – Designed with the community it serves.

There are 2 commissions available to develop a sustainable arts and well-being model in rural areas. Co-Create is a project to support well-being for people within Huntly and the surrounding area through creative activity. This six-month project is to research and develop a sustainable arts and wellbeing model in rural areas which will result in access to arts activity for many years to come.

Both artists will work out of Jubilee Hospital, Huntly. We are looking for an artists with a research-based practice, and one with a socially engaged/participatory practice to work collaboratively on this project.

For more information click on the link:

Deadline – 1st December