GPs boost for Arts in Healthcare

Second Arts in Health survey suggests ‘massive’ culture change

Taking part in arts activities can prevent ill health and save the NHS money, an increasing proportion of GPs believe.

The survey of 1002 GPs, was carried out on behalf of Aesop, a social enterprise enabling the arts to deliver health improvement.

Headlines from the 2019 survey are as follows –


  • Across the UK 74% of GPs said public engagement with the arts can make a significant contribution to the prevention agenda. In Wales the figure increased to 87%[1] 
  • 54% of GPs agree that arts-based interventions can be a cost-effective way to deliver primary care to the public to improve health outcomes
  • 72% agree that public engagement with the arts can make a significant contribution to improving the health and wellbeing of the NHS workforce, up 10 percentage points from 2018 (62%).


In the survey, the arts are broadly defined as dance, drama, music, visual arts, films, singing, reading, painting, drawing, crafts and making.


Dr. Michael Dixon, NHS England Clinical Champion for Social Prescribing, Chair of the College of Medicine and former President of NHS Clinical Commissioners, said:

“This reveals a massive culture change in a very short time. It shows that my fellow GPs have quickly recognised the power of the arts to benefit patients, reduce calls on the NHS and stop the prescribing of ever more drugs.”

Aesop’s Chief Executive and Founder Tim Joss said he was ‘delighted’ by the results of its second Arts in Health GP survey. He added: “The results are extremely encouraging, showing that there has been a significant increase in the number of GPs that believe the arts make an important and valued contribution to the public’s health and wellbeing.”

In 2018 Aesop commissioned Savanta ComRes to ask 1002 GPs in the UK for their opinions on arts and health. The 2019 survey repeated this methodology and aimed to evaluate if there had been significant changes in the last year.

Commenting on the results of the survey, Lord Howarth, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing said:

“Efforts by the arts in health movement to educate and persuade medical professionals are clearly bearing fruit and will help ensure that the arts are central in the development of social prescribing.”


Reflecting on the results, Tim Joss added:

“This is a very encouraging read and shows continued positive growth from GPs. For Aesop’s continued work in this field and the planned expansion of our Dance to Health programme in 2020, I am extremely encouraged that there is a growing health system appetite for exemplar arts in health programmes.”


Most arts in health projects are time-limited and serve small groups. None has gone to scale in the health system. Dance to Health aims to be the first. It is a falls prevention dance programme for older people. Dance to Health reduces falls by 58%. Sheffield Hallam University evaluated the Dance to Health programme and has concluded that it “offers the health system a more effective and cost-effective means to address the issue of older people’s falls.” Aesop is currently preparing a significant expansion programme across England and Wales that will run from 2020 to 2025.

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