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Taunton and Somerset NHS FT

Sensing Our Past at Musgrove Park Hospital

Art for Life worked with staff on the wards and artists to plan and deliver a series of short creative reminiscence sessions targeting patients who have dementia, exploring ways to enhance and improve their hospital experience which may be particularly frightening, isolating, and confusing. The artists used objects and pictures, story-telling, music and singing to stimulate memories and communication.

The project was not about creating art works but was about the artists being creative facilitators, working as communicators, drawing out stories and memories from patients.

Jenni Dutton   

Project delivery was from 23/4/13-11/7/13

  • 14 Sessions were delivered
  • 3 Artists were employed (a storyteller, a singer and a visual artist working with objects) 
  • 3 Care of the Elderly wards were worked with
  • 33 Participants took part
  • 10 Staff were directly involved (4 Occupational Therapists, 4 Ward Managers & 2 Nursing staff) 
  • An estimated 30 Ward staff were indirectly involved 
  • An estimated 30 Carers and other patients were indirectly involved

Some of the positive observations from staff about the sessions included:

  1. How friendships were created between patients by drawing them together through their participation in a session. 
  2. Patients becoming more settled after a session and feeling less anxious. One example of this was when a patient who had been crying actually settled down and stopped crying as a result of doing a session.
  3. How sessions drew people out of themselves and helped them to become less withdrawn. An example of this was a patient on Wordsworth ward who briefly changed his normal bent over stance and commented that he liked the sound. 
  4. How patients and staff could be made to laugh.


The overriding view of the staff and artists was that the sessions were a really beneficial experience for the patients and staff and that having done these initial sessions and evaluated them it would be extremely sad not to be able to find away of sustaining the work. Sustainability, it was agreed, was key and finding a way of funding further sessions was really important.

Communication and commitment are key to delivery; commitment from the staff and communication between the artists and staff. The artists should have a key member of staff on each ward to communicate with but it was also clear that all the ward staff needed to be aware of the project and to understand what was happening and why. Flexibility and sensitivity was needed at all times; often sessions might need to be cancelled because of sickness on the ward. The skills and personalities of the artists were critical considerations.


Download Evaluation 

Contact: Lisa Harty
Art and Design Coordinator
Art for Life


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