Social Prescribing to Arts for the Dementias

Arts 4 Dementia Best Practice Conference and Report 2021
‘Arts for Brain Health: Social Prescribing as Peri-Diagnostic Practice for Dementia’, 21 May 2021.
Presents evidence from leading academics in social prescribing, arts for brain health and creative ageing, with findings Arts 4 Dementia’s regional  culture, health and wellbeing meetings to advance social prescribing to weekly re-energising arts and wellbeing activity at the onset of symptoms
To protect against fear and loneliness in the run up to diagnosis and open the door to empowerment and opportunity through the arts
Ever more imaginative on zoom!

For more information, please contact

Driving forward social prescribing as peri-diagnostic practice

To address issues arising from Arts 4 Dementia’s 2019 social prescribing conference, we commissioned  “D-IAGNOSIS! Arts to Preserve Wellbeing” by the art activist Jane Frere at Tate Exchange in January 2020 as our campaign picture to help advance social prescribing to weekly arts as peri-diagnostic practice for dementia. The picture was to hang at UK museums to set up social prescribing links for dementia 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 NHS link workers, who can empower patients to choose their rehabilitative social prescription, Arts 4 Dementia held meetings gathering together leaders in academia, social prescribing, culture, health and wellbeing  in every NHS region.  The idea is that if GPs to refer patients link workers to choose weekly arts programmes early in the diagnostic process, by sharing cultural interests, learning new skills, the shock of diagnosis will be less, as they co-create dance, drama performances, discuss and create art, despite dementia, they can preserve identity and enjoy life in the community for longer.

Arts 4 Dementia  brought together leaders in culture, health and wellbeing, GP clinical and social prescribing leads, memory services, link workers and community connectors to connect those involved and drive forward social prescribing as pre-diagnostic practice for dementia. D-IAGNOSIS! hung at

CANTERBURY: The Beaney House of Art & Knowledge 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

During the pandemic, encouraged museum partnerships for Zoom meetings:

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, 2-5 pm
NORTH-EAST, TYNE & WEAR, NEWCASTLE, hosted by Equal Arts & Tyne & Wear Museums Thu, 24 September, 2-5 pm
YORKSHIRE & HUMBER, hosted by Leeds Museums & Galleries Wed, 21 October, 2-5pm
WEST MIDLANDS, hosted by Birmingham Museums Wed, 4 November, 2-5 pm
EAST MIDLANDS, hosted by Nottingham Contemporary Thu, 26  November, 2-5 pm
EAST OF ENGLAND, CAMBRIDGE, hosted by The Fitzwilliam Museum

SCOTLAND: GLASGOW: Hosted by Scottish Opera

Mon, 7 December, 2-5 pm

Mon 15 February 2021, 2-5 pm


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