A project which gives Oxford Health patients and staff an artistic outlet has been shortlisted for a major national award.

Creating with Care aims to enhance the patient and carer experience through a variety of artistic activities not previously available in our community hospitals.

The project aims to work with patients and staff to increase wellbeing and enhance the hospital environment as well as raising awareness of the benefits of arts in healthcare.

And now it has been shortlisted for the Community Hospitals Association’s Innovation and Best Practice Awards 2020. The awards are extra-special this year as they take place during the association’s 50th anniversary.

Paula Har, Dementia Nurse Specialist and Safeguarding Practitioner explained: “We are delighted to have our work recognised in this way – especially in such a big year for the Community Hospital Association.

“The project began in January 2017 following a conversation with representatives of West Oxfordshire District Council. They wanted to install a piece of art in the hospital in Witney and we saw an opportunity to go further and the idea for artistic activities and therapeutic work funded by the council was born.

“The feedback from the patients and staff we have worked with has been really inspiring. While you can see the impact of a project somewhere like Didcot Community Hospital where some wonderful new mosaics have been created for the garden. We have also seen first-hand the immediate benefits along with the additional benefits of keeping people engaged and this transferring to rehabilitation and recovery.

“Over 2019 we measured the happiness score across all activities and the outcome demonstrated there was a clear increase in happiness, relaxation and wellbeing with patients reporting they distracted from the hospital environment, increasing the overall wellbeing of our patients. This also echoed the independent evaluation by University of Oxford that was carried out in 2017 the first year of the project. We are assured that these interventions continue to provide evidence that wellbeing is improved during hospital stays.

“We also know from patient feedback that Creating with Care has boosted their mental health, provided a calming distraction and a sense of achievement during hospital stays.”

The reach of Creating with Care was expanded in January 2019 from being established at Witney Community Hospital with funding from Oxford Health Charity to a further five additional community hospitals and continues to go from strength to strength.

With sessions on photography, art, mosaics, dance, music, vintage cabaret, drama, poetry, and even a bit of Shakespeare – there has been a variety of stimulating work all allowing patients, many of whom have enduring and complex conditions, to get involved.

All this has been delivered by Arts Co-ordinator Angela Conlan who spends many hours developing relationships with local authorities, businesses, education, third sector and arts organisations.

She said: “During 2020 Creating with Care has continued to be innovative delivering arts-based activities in what is a challenging time for everyone to ensure the well-being of patients and staff has continued.

“Creating with Care has facilitated virtual activities, garden concerts, provided creative packs and Art carts for each ward along with one-to-one sessions including supporting patients with virtual calls and visits. Staff have also been able to access activities to boost morale, increase wellbeing and reduce stress during this time too.

Lucy Wells, Head of Community Hospitals, said: “This is great news and a great opportunity to showcase the innovative work done through Creating With Care.

“The artwork that is produced is wonderful and the happiness it brings is really worthwhile, in benefiting the patients and their families. I would like to congratulate everyone involved in the project and have my fingers crossed for the presentation.”

Creating with Care has had a total of 4,350 patient attendances at arts sessions across community hospitals with 1,666 staff attendances over the last four years. A total of £39,784 has been raised for projects. ​​​​​​​

The team will make a presentation to the CHA judging panel on Friday 4 December 2020 via Zoom.