Cultural Wellbeing Grant Supports Artery for Health

As part of York’s Culture Strategy, Make It York, York CVS, and City of York Council have come together to award funding of more than £60,000 to nineteen social and cultural initiatives across the city – with the aim of easing loneliness, isolation, and mental ill-health across the city. 

The grants, which were made available via the Better Care Fund and Ways to Wellbeing, were set up in recognition of the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on people’s wellbeing – through shielding, self-isolation, and social distancing. This series of case studies profiles each of the 2021 recipients: 

One of the projects supported by the grants was Artery for Health. Developed by heritage and cultural learning consultant Karen Merrifield and the Arts team at York Hospital, to create a proof of concept model to improve connections between healthcare providers, artists and cultural organisations in the city. 

Two recent evaluations of arts interventions at York Hospital revealed healthcare staff and artists welcomed arts intervention with treatment, however, a better understanding of how healthcare professionals work with patients and what artists and cultural organisations can offer patients would be beneficial. Artists raised several areas where they need clarity and support. These include: 

  • The needs of the patient  
  • Expectation around arts and arts therapy 
  • If/How their arts practice complements the work of therapists working on the ward 
  • Delivery of sessions including preparation, timing, setting, delivery – one to one or performance-based session, choice of and place for music, infection control. 

The Cultural Wellbeing Grant allowed Artery for Health to work with Allied Health Professionals to answer these questions. This included largely physiotherapists and occupational therapists who work with patients either as they move from being in-patients to out-patients, or those working with patients with chronic conditions. This focused on those specialising in chronic pain, stroke/neurological conditions and pulmonary conditions. 

The first key finding was that healthcare professionals’ roles have changed hugely due to the impact of the COVID 19 pandemic. COVID 19 means staff are facing unprecedented challenges, including:  

  • Staff burn out and fatigue 
  • Staff shortages 
  • Changes in practice with many clinics moving to video or telephone consultation 
  • Relocation of services due to infection control. For example, Stroke Rehab has moved from Scarborough Hospital to Bridlington 
  • Patients in individual wards to minimise the risk of infection but this leads to a lack of social interaction which can affect recovery 
  • Strict control over who can go onto a ward. With restrictions on family and friends  
  • Through COVID 19 it has not been possible to offer arts interventions in the hospital. 

These findings show that old ways of working in the NHS are gone however this provides a timely opportunity to explore how to work more closely with arts and culture. 

Artery for Health ran workshops in the autumn, bringing cultural organisations, artists and healthcare professionals together to explore further how to work together, offering local artists opportunities to join existing educational programmes by Allied Health Professionals. These conversations were shared with the Northern Powerhouse group of arts teams in hospitals and there is a strong interest in taking this model forward. 

The next steps are pilot projects around: 


Artist taster sessions informed by patients and AHPs to support meaningful and purposeful activity, relating arts to existing education or treatment programmes. These are designed to support patients with chronic and respiratory conditions to self-management.  

Community Culture Club 

A carousel of activities from cultural partners for long covid, chronic pain, pulmonary, neurology and stroke patient groups, social groups and AHPs e.g., the National Railway Museum. 

Art Residencies  

Artist in residence, working across the Trust to improve communication for patients and staff, on a staff-led project. 

Embedding learning 

Co-ordinate a joint learning day with York St. John University, where OTs students, hospital staff and academic staff explore how arts and culture can support their health and wellbeing. 

Additional opportunities with York St John University include: 

  • Research project for third year students (Students decide on research projects in Year 2 e.g., Dance with patients on the Dementia ward, lockdown projects – arts to support wellbeing) 
  • Work placements for students or OTs e.g., museum or other cultural venues 

The Artery for Health project has also recently been awarded grant funding from the 2022 Cultural Wellbeing Grants, which will help in creating these pilot projects and continuing the work in bringing arts interventions to York Hospital.  

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