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The funder publishes a dedicated Creative Health & Wellbeing plan, which includes a commitment to develop the use of arts and culture in social prescribing.

Arts Council England (ACE) has refreshed its 2021-24 Delivery Plan to include targets that promote the positive benefits of creativity and culture to health and wellbeing.

The update comes with the publication of a Creative Health & Wellbeing plan, designed to promote creative health as a fundamental part of living well for individuals, communities and globally. ACE has long acknowledged the role of creativity in contributing to health and happiness but Chair Sir Nicholas Serota says the pandemic made the importance even more evident.

“In the face of adversity and isolation, people turned to creative and cultural activities to maintain and improve their mental wellbeing.”


“We believe that, by ensuring that everyone in the country has access to high quality creative and cultural activities, they will, in turn, lead happier and healthier lives.”

The new plan says creative health and wellbeing has a “role to play at every level of public health”. ACE’s work will initially focus on securing partnerships, supporting social prescribing and mapping regional networks to connect existing activity.

The funder has committed to three measurable actions that form part of its refreshed delivery plan. These will remain under review while work begins on a 2024-2027 delivery plan, which will include new commitments.

Initial actions include publishing a detailed plan that describes how ACE will work in the field of creative health and developing a programme alongside the National Centre for Creative Health that maps existing networks between health and local creative and cultural sector partners.

ACE will also support a senior post at the National Academy of Social Prescribing (NASP), a UK-government funded body dedicated to advancements of the service. The role will represent arts and culture in the charity’s work.

The funder will continue work with NASP to deliver its Thriving Communities Fund, a scheme designed to increase social connectiveness that launched with a £1.4m pilot last year. 

It also plans to develop a pilot programme with the National Lottery Community Fund, to include up seven of the NHS Integrated Care Systems, made up of partnerships of organisations working together to deliver joined up health and care services.

NHS collaboration

ACE says working effectively with the NHS and understanding its delivery model and long-term planning will be “critical” to realising its ambitions.

The NHS has committed to increasing social prescribing, with NASP helping to deliver this activity. ACE says its work in connecting existing practice across the country will go towards accelerating the use of this service. 

The Creative Health & Wellbeing plan also outlines an ambition to explore further NHS collaboration in areas including the role of creativity in acute care settings, supporting youth mental health, and combating isolation and loneliness. The funder says it would build on work it has done independently in these areas.

The plan also signals an ambition to take best practice outside the UK. The partnership with the NHS could see the two bodies “speak together to a global audience about how transformative a strategy focused on creative health can be”.

Best practice

ACE has published case studies of existing creative and cultural projects improving people’s health and wellbeing to coincide with the launch of the plan.

The projects span music, theatre, heritage and visual arts, helping groups including young people with long-term medical conditions, people with dementia and those undergoing end of life care.

NASP CEO James Sanderson says art and culture play a key role in the success of many social prescribing projects.

“Engaging with people through their own creativity can help them become an active part of their community, promote positive wellbeing, and ultimately get to the root of the social implications of poor health. 

“I am delighted ACE has set out ways to further this work with the Creative Health & Wellbeing plan, and we look forward to working collaboratively to help bring these plans into fruition.”