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Award-winning health scheme puts South Devon and Torbay on the map

​Choir members, some of whom have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), led by Wren Music, a member of Torbay Arts and Culture Network.​
A groundbreaking scheme to improve the lives of people with mental health or severe breathing difficulties has won a national award.

South Devon and Torbay Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), responsible for the majority of healthcare in the area, has received an Innovating for Improvement grant worth £75,000.

The award, from the Health Foundation, recognises innovative approaches to improving people’s healthcare.  The bid was developed in partnership with a number of local organisations, including Torbay Culture Board, healthcare organisations and the voluntary sector. 

The 15-month initiative will begin next year, with members of the Torbay Arts and Culture Network using their talents to improve people’s health and wellbeing.

Dr Jo Roberts, the CCG’s clinical lead for innovation, said: “This scheme is unique in this country, and has a great deal of clinical groundwork behind it.
“There are two parts to the scheme, with both developing a schedule of arts and culture-based programmes to which people can be referred by the GP, a specialist or, in the case of children, their school. 

“The first intervention is for children’s mental health and well-being. It will include a range of creative activities such as dance, performance and singing, following research showing that engagement with arts and culture can significantly improve people’s mental wellbeing.

“The second is for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, who will be offered the chance to participate in a specialist choir – an activity that has been shown to improve lung capacity.”

Sessions for both initiatives will focus on learning a creative skill, with the emphasis on experimentation, expression and group interaction, as well as personal reflection and goal-setting. 

They are aimed at improving people’s health by giving them a pursuit that is enjoyable, social and can be adopted long term.

Kate Farmery, director of Torbay Culture Board, said: “This award will put Torbay and South Devon on the map for its creative responses to challenging healthcare issues, building on the investment that Arts Council England has already made in arts, health and wellbeing programmes in the area. 

“We are lucky to have access to such skilled and experienced creative practitioners, along with a CCG that so is open to innovation and a thriving arts and health partnership.”  

With NHS funding limited nationally, the CCG is applying for a range of other funds to help the improvement of healthcare in the area.

Earlier this year, £100,000 worth of grants was secured for other arts-based projects to improve people health and wellbeing.

Dr Roberts added: “We’re really grateful to the organisations that have assisted us with these initiatives. They will help people improve their health and wellbeing by delivering the right intervention.

“It will also have the effect of reducing the number of GP appointments across South Devon and Torbay, which has a knock-on effect for hundreds of other patients.”