Improving patient experience and quality of care are key priorities for the NHS, but the solution doesn’t always have to be clinical
In recent years art has increasingly been acknowledged as a way of reducing stress, anxiety, and depression among patients and staff, enlivening clinical environments with paintings, illustrations, and installations.
At the beginning of February University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust (UHB) announced it was looking to invest in arts and culture after studies showed they boost patient recovery time and can reduce the need for painkillers.
However, this is just the beginning of a potential transformation in the improvement of health and wellbeing – and there are already organisations in place to help the NHS reach beyond the expected.
By boosting mental health and improving patients’ time hospital, the cinema experiences support patient resilience and recovery, with studies indicating that a better patient experience is linked to better clinical outcomes
Research is taking place into the benefits of other mediums of art and culture, and an inquiry by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Arts Health and Wellbeing laid out the case for healthcare systems to use the creative arts in supporting health and wellbeing outcomes.
MediCinema is one of the innovative organisations taking this approach forward, with the introduction of ‘cinematherapy’.
A spokesman said: “Spending any time in hospital can be difficult, anxious and isolating – for both the patient and their family.
“But film has been shown to make a tangible difference, helping to relieve stress and anxiety, improve wellbeing, and even reduce pain.
As a charity, MediCinema works with the fundraising arms of NHS trusts to ensure that hi-tech cinemas are installed at no cost to the hospital.
And, thanks to support from the film industry; patients even get to see the latest blockbusters.
The cinemas are specially built to accommodate all patients, even those unable to leave their beds, and an army of nurses and volunteers means there is always support close at hand.
Significantly, the experience offers patients a sense of normality and a break from the clinical environment.
Regular surveys carried out by MediCinema reveal that enabling patients to visit the cinema during their stay provides multiple benefits to both physical and mental health, including:
The cinemas are specially built to accommodate all patients, even those unable to leave their beds
“By boosting mental health and improving patients’ time hospital, the cinema experiences support patient resilience and recovery, with studies indicating that a better patient experience is linked to better clinical outcomes”, said the spokesman.
It also offers a welcome distraction.
When eight-year-old Pollyanna spent 105 days in hospital, including five weeks in isolation, following a life-saving bone marrow transplant, she was so excited about a trip to MediCinema.
Her mum, Claudine, said: “We spent Christmas and New Year away from home, much to the disappointment of the girls; but seeing lovely Christmas films helped to alleviate the sadness and sorrow.”
And the benefits don’t stop at patients.
For parents, having a child in hospital can be an incredibly-draining and isolating experience, but feedback has shown that MediCinema can have a positive impact on parents’ mental health, too.
Shona is mum to Alistair, a patient at the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow. She said: “The MediCinema has a real family feel.
The NHS must start to look beyond the boundaries of clinical care to improve patient experience and both physical and mental health; and embracing the arts and film is a good place to start
“Everyone there has their own struggles, but, in the cinema, we are all together as one community.
“Sometimes, talking to other cinema-goers, or the volunteers, can be the first regular adult conversation you’ve had all week.”
The MediCinema spokesman said: “The NHS must start to look beyond the boundaries of clinical care to improve patient experience and both physical and mental health; and embracing the arts and film is a good place to start.
Active at six sites in the UK, in 2019 MediCinema held more than 1,000 screenings.
And, by 2025, it hopes to double the number of sites.
92% of patients said visiting the cinema improved their wellbeing while just over half said it reduced physical pain