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 TOURArts 4 Dementia plans to tour the picture around UK museums, with social prescribing events, to stimulate people to respond to their diagnosis, through the arts; and to set up social prescribing links for dementia at each stop.

  • KENT: The Beaney House of Art & Knowledge, Canterbury. Thursday 16 January, 1.30-4pm. Programme here
  • BATH: The Holburne Museum. Thursday 27 February, 2-4 pm. Programme and registration here.
  • LONDON: The Wallace Collection, National Social Prescribing Day. Thursday 12 March, 3-5 pm
  • DERBY: National Culture Health & Wellbeing Conference, 19-20 March
  • OXFORD: Ashmolean Museum of Art & Archaeology, Age of Creativity Festival, Wednesday 6 May, 2-4 pm

Southwark arts prescriptions:

  • Friday drama workshops 10.30-12.30, at Southwark Playhouse, 77-85 Newington Causeway, Elephant & Castle SE1 6BD. 24 Jan-13 Mar, 24 Apr-12 Jun, 16 Oct – 4 Dec
  • Tuesday dance classes, 2.45-4.30, at Siobhan Davies Dance, 85 St George’s Road, Elephant & Castle, SE1 6ER, starting on 18 February

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 225,000 people will 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