Social Prescribing to Arts for the Dementias

Arts 4 Dementia opened our campaign to achieve social prescribing to arts as diagnostic practice for dementia, introducing “D-IAGNOSIS! Arts for Wellbeing” by the art activist Jane Frere at Tate Exchange on Wednesday 8 January. The idea is to use the picture to set up social prescribing links for dementia at museums around the UK, to reduce the trauma of diagnosis and enable people to override symptoms through weekly arts prescriptions – dynamic, effective, re-energising programmes at arts venues.

Now that every GP has access to an NHS link worker, who empower patients to choose their rehabilitative social prescription, GPs and link workers are being urged to refer patients to weekly arts programmes early in the diagnostic process. Sharing cultural interests with others facing similar challenges, the shock of diagnosis will be less, as they co-create dance, drama performances, art exhibitions, and give concerts, despite dementia, preserving identity and enjoying life in the community for  years longer.

D-IAGNOSIS! on TOUR – Driving forward social prescribing as peri-diagnostic practice

Arts 4 Dementia is bringing together leaders in culture, health and wellbeing, GP clinical and social prescribing leads, memory services, social prescriber link workers and community connectors in a series of regional roundtable meetings to connect those involved and drive forward social prescribing as pre-diagnostic practice for dementia. The picture D-IAGNOSIS! inspires these meetings and we plan to tour the picture when circumstances permit.

KENT: The Beaney House of Art & Knowledge, Canterbury Thu, 16 January, 1.30-4pm. Programme here
BATH: The Holburne Museum Thu, 27 February, 2-4 pm. Programme  here
LONDON: The Wallace Collection, National Social Prescribing Day Thu, 12 March, 3-5 pm

Convened by Zoom:

OXFORD: hosted by Ashmolean Museum of Art & Archaeology, Age of Creativity Festival Wed, 6 May, 2-4 pm
SOUTH-EAST, HAMPSHIRE: hosted by St Barbe Museum Wed, 17 June, 2-4.30 pm
SOUTH-WEST, DEVON: hosted by Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter Wed, 29 July, 2-4.30 pm
NORTH-WEST, GREATER MANCHESTER:  hosted by Manchester Museum Thu, 3 September, 2-4,30 pm
NORTH-EAST, TYNE & WEAR, NEWCASTLE, hosted by Equal Arts & Tyne & Wear Museums Thu, 24 September, 2-4.30 pm
YORKSHIRE & HUMBER, hosted by Leeds Museums & Galleries Wed, 21 October, 2-4.30pm
WEST MIDLANDS, hosted by Birmingham Museums Wed, 4 November, 2-4.30 pm
EAST MIDLANDS, hosted by Nottingham Contemporary Thu, 26  November, 2-4,30 pm
EAST OF ENGLAND, CAMBRIDGE, hosted by The Fitzwilliam Museum Mon, 7 December, 2-4.30 pm

Southwark arts prescriptions, convened by zoom:

  • Southwark Playhouse, Drama workshops (2 Oct – 27 Nov) Fridays 10.15 for 10.30-12.
  • Siobhan Davies, Dance classes (6 Oct – 24 Nov) Tuesdays 2.15 for 2.30 – 4 pm.
Arts 4 Dementia Best Practice Conference ‘Brain Health: Social Prescribing (Arts & Wellbeing) as Diagnostic Practice for Dementia’, 21 May 2021.

For more information, please contact


Arts 4 Dementia Best Practice Conference “Towards Social Prescribing (Arts & Heritage) for the Dementias”, Wellcome Collection, 16 May 2019

Arts 4 Dementia (A4D) held the first UK conference on social prescribing for the dementias at The Wellcome Collection in London on Thursday 16 May, with a key policy debate and presentations by leaders in social prescribing, arts for health and social care, to drive forward direction to arts on diagnosis.

[Conference presentations are available below – please request presenters’ permission if you wish to use their material.]

This year over 200,000 people are expected to develop a dementia – one every three minutes. There is no cure, but widespread evidence that engaging with arts and heritage helps protect against the risk of cognitive decline and empowers individuals and their carers to override anxieties caused by dementia, develop new creative experiences, preserve speech and language skills and nurture resilience in the community, despite dementia.

On diagnosis of a dementia, people need direction to the arts to counteract loss and preserve cognitive function. Social prescribing (SP), whereby surgery case managers, health support workers and link workers encourage people to choose their own arts programmes, can achieve this. But the focus of social prescribing is rarely on dementia.

Although there is not yet a cure I believe we can do more to improve the lives of people with the condition. We can and should harness the incredible power of the arts and social activities to help people cope better with symptoms and stay connected to their communities. This is the kind of good-value, easy-to-use social prescription that I’m fully behind, helping to achieve a shirt to more person-centred care as part of our NHS Long Term Plan.

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Rt. Hon. Matt Hancock

“Towards Social Prescribing (Arts & Heritage) for the Dementias” looked at the evidence, the process and impact of SP arts as non-pharmaceutical interventions for the dementias and how this can be measured.

  • Keynote speeches by Dr Michael Dixon OBE GP, National Clinical Lead for Social Prescription, NHS England and Co-Chair, Social Prescribing Network and Baroness Greengross, co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Dementia, led to the health and social care plenary debate to steer the drive for SP for dementia as universal post-diagnostic support.
  • Presentations from surgery linkworker to prescribed arts programmes, outlining the process, were followed by cultural companion training and launch of a volunteer creative companion consortium, ArtsPAL.

SURVEY: Your responses  – even if you yourself did not attend the conference – will be much valued, to help spread social prescribing and creative befriending for the dementias. Click here to complete.

A4D Conference Programme

Veronica Franklin Gould, Arts 4 Dementia, introduces the social prescribing conference for dementia and creative befriender consortium, ArtsPAL

MORNING SESSIONS chaired by Alexandra Coulter, Chair, Culture, Health and Wellbeing Alliance


KEYNOTE SPEECH Dr Michael Dixon OBE GP, National Clinical Lead for Social Prescription, NHS England and Co-Chair, Social Prescribing Network, “Social Prescribing for Dementia in Practice“.

KEYNOTE SPEECH Baroness Greengross, Co-Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group on Dementia

PLENARY DEBATE chaired by Dr Marie Polley, Co-Chair Social Prescribing Network

  • Dr Charles Alessi, Dementia Lead, Public Health England
  • Dr Michael Dixon OBE GP National Clinical Lead for Social Prescription, Chair, College of Medicine.
  • Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive, Care England
  • James Sanderson, Director Personalised Care Group, NHS England
  • Georgia Chimbani, Dementia Lead, Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS)
  • Ian McCreath, Personalisation Lead, Alzheimer’s Society
  • Dr Richard Ings, Arts in Health Arts in Health, Wellbeing and Criminal Justice lead, Arts Council England


ARTS FOR EARLY-STAGE DEMENTIA Chaired by Dr Trish Vella-Burrows, Principal Research Fellow, Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts & Health, Canterbury Christ Church University