Music on Prescription: Musical Connections & York Medical Group

Fiona Chapman, Project Director at Musical Connections, writes about the impact of the Music on Prescription initiative which was co-run between Musical Connections and York Medical Group.

For over 10 years, Musical Connections has run music groups and choirs for older people, particularly those who are vulnerable and at risk of social isolation, in care and community settings across York. Feedback from participants is consistently positive, with over 90% saying that their involvement has improved their wellbeing by giving them opportunities to connect with other music-lovers in a supportive and sociable environment.

York Medical Group were keen to bring the benefits of this work to their patients, and senior staff worked with Musical Connections to make it happen – they contributed to funding bids, made space available for the groups to take place at two of their GP surgeries, and made a concerted effort to promote the benefits of this work to staff and patients.

Thanks to funding from the Postcode Community Trust, the groups were able to begin in September 2018, and since then, a total of 48 patients have taken part, with 28 attending regularly (ie for a minimum of 5 sessions, but usually much more often). Undoubtedly, recruitment has benefited not only from recent efforts in the media to promote singing for mental and physical health, but also from the obvious enthusiasm of some of the doctors, who have sung alongside their patients in Tower Court’s waiting room on more than one occasion!

So far, 22 participants have completed feedback questionnaires, with very positive results:

  • 21 said that taking part in their group had improved their overall wellbeing
  • 19 said that it had specifically improved their physical wellbeing (5 of these said greatly)
  • ALL said it had improved their confidence
  • ALL said that participating in their group made them feel generally happier and positive about life (15 said this was to a great extent)
  • 5 said they had gone to their GP less since joining their group

Several have articulated specific benefits:

‘It’s fun and you don’t have to be able to sing well! It’s socialising for older people – it gets you back going again. I’ve been widowed for nearly 2 years, and I came here after the first year, and it made a difference. You’ve got to have a reason to get up and that’s what this does for you’

‘My blood pressure is high on a normal day – when I see the nurse after this, it’s good. The nurse asked what had I been doing and I said ‘singing’!’

Group participants do not have to have any musical training and there is no pressure to perform, although several chose to do so at Musical Connections’ recent 10th anniversary concert at the National Centre for Early Music. Given that they had only been singing together since September, this was a fantastic achievement and a reflection of the confidence and relationships that have developed during weekly sessions.

The Postcode Community Trust funding comes to an end in July, but new funds have been secured, to ensure that the groups can continue beyond this period. We continue to work closely with York Medical Group to understand the impact of this work on their patients.

by Fiona Chapman
Project Director, Musical Connections