Creating with Care, the innovative arts programme running at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust’s six community hospitals, has won the Innovation and Best Practice improving Patient Care award at the Community Hospitals Association’s (CHA) Innovations and Best Practice Awards 2020. The programme founders, arts coordinator Angela Conlan and dementia nurse Paula Har presented their work to the CHA panel on Friday last week (December 4) and pocketed the ‘golden’ prize from stiff competition in the CHA’s 50th year.

The judging panel said:

“’Therapeutic joy’ sums up this project and the presentation. It is such an impressive piece of work impacting positively on patients, families, staff and the environment. This work is an example of innovation and creativity at its best. You should all be so proud of developing and delivering this work. Impressive, joyful, person-centred, effective, evidence based and fabulous!”

And:

“I couldn’t stop smiling with pleasure during the presentation of this project. Such passion, joy and intelligence – absolutely inspirational.”

Creating with Care started 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. The idea for artistic activities and therapeutic work funded by the council was born,” explains Paula Har.

Since then the programme has been extended to all six of Oxford Health’s community hospitals, supported by Oxford Health Charity.

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 allowing patients, many of whom have enduring and complex conditions, to get involved. The programme has involved local authorities, businesses and artists as well as education, third sector and arts organisations. It has had a total of 4,350 patient attendances and 1,666 staff attendances at its sessions over the last four years. A total of £39,784 has been raised for projects. ​​​​​​​ And on the top of the uplifting experiences, many pieces of beautiful art have been created to enhance the hospital environments.

Senior matron, clinical lead for community hospitals Helen Lambourne said:

“I am just so proud of this service. Who could have imagined that an artist and a nurse could come up with this vision and work in the way they have done! When you see the impact on the patient, it is quite phenomenal.”

Helen and the rest of the community hospitals management team – head of community hospitals Lucy Wells and service manager Carol Duncombe – are firmly supporting Creating with Care and want to secure its future in community hospitals.

Not even the coronavirus has been able dent the programme. During 2020 Creating with Care has continued to be innovative, facilitating virtual activities and garden concerts, providing creative packs and art carts for each ward and conducted one-to-one sessions to support patients with virtual calls and visits. Staff, too, have been able to access activities to boost morale, increase wellbeing and reduce stress during this time.

Lucy Wells said:

“The difference that this approach has on the people it touches on the ward is tangible. You can feel their overall wellbeing improving; it’s wonderful to see. The staff involved have been amazing and despite many challenges this year, have continued with the patient at the very heart of all that community hospitals do.”

Angela Conlan said:

“I’m so pleased that the work we have been doing over the last four years has been recognised in this way. I have loved developing Creating with Care and I am passionate about the benefits of the arts within the hospital setting having seen first-hand the difference the project makes on so many occasions.”

Paula Har said:

“The award and the judging panel feedback was amazing. Creating with Care will continue to look forward to new and innovative ways of improving the patient experience in our community hospitals. I am incredibly proud of this project and all that it has achieved over the four years. Thank you for the support from the teams in each of the hospitals and to all the patients who have attended. We couldn’t do this without them!”

Health Matters webinar on Creating with Care

Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust is holding a webinar Health Matters: Four years of Creating with Care on Tuesday, December 15 at 12:30. The event is run online at https://bit.ly/HealthMatters-CwC and is free for public to join. The webinar is hosted by service director Emma Leaver and Angela and Paula will talk about their work as well as answer questions from audience.