Music for a While

A project with Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra to provide music for people with dementia in 3 hospitals in Wessex: Poole, Portsmouth and Royal Hampshire County Hospital.


AHSW’s and BSO’s ‘Music for a While’ project provided music for people with dementia in 3 hospitals in Wessex. Research by the University of Winchester showed a reduced use of anti agitation drugs. ‘Music for a While’ was a partnership project led by Arts & Health South West (AHSW) working with the University of Winchester and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (BSO) to deliver music for people with dementia in three hospitals: Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust.


Initial plans evolved in discussion with the Wessex Academic Health Science Network’s dementia project manager, Katherine Barbour, and a group of Dementia Nurse Leads from all the acute hospitals in the Wessex region. The project built on a previous AHSW project ‘AHSW The Arts and Dementia in Acute Hospitals Report’ with six hospitals in the South West region.


The project aimed to improve patient experience and quality of life for those with dementia and their carers; to engage and support staff caring for patients with dementia; and to test a model for sustainable and scalable delivery of music for people with dementia in an acute hospital environment.


In each of the hospitals the staff were already providing a range of interventions aimed at improving the quality of life and experience of patients with dementia. This project built on current initiatives, enabled staff between the three hospitals to share learning and resources, and gathered the information to support the business case for future work of a similar nature.


Neil Valentine, BSO Associate – Musician in the Community provided music activities in each hospital for three hours once a week from July 2015 to January 2016. When possible, patients were brought together into a day room for singing and music making and, at other times, Neil would play music to people at their bedside, either in individual rooms or in four to six-bedded bays. Each three hour session allowed for some preparation time with nursing staff and a de-brief at the end.

One relative said:

“I think music is so beneficial for dementia patients and I have witnessed many people actually sing a well-known song when they are perhaps unable to speak or communicate.”


The University of Winchester conducted an ethically approved research project in Winchester Hospital. At Poole and Portsmouth Hospitals service evaluations provided feedback in the form of staff questionnaires, patient postcards and staff interviews. The artist collected data on number of participants and also kept a reflective diary and blog.


Findings from the research showed some interesting trends including a decrease in the number of patients requiring anti agitation drugs, less falls recorded and that the length of stay was reduced. The qualitative data from the research and service evaluations showed that the music interventions were greatly valued by patients, staff and carers. The music was effective in engaging people, that they enjoyed themselves and that communication was improved between staff and patients, enabling a better understanding of the individual and a greater focus on patient-centred care.

The Research Report is supported by Music for a While Final Project Report which can be viewed and downloaded here >> 

External Link

Research Report by the University of Winchester

Download the Research Report for Music for a While.


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