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Last Updated: Friday, 24 October, 2003, 23:38 GMT 00:38 UK
NHS stories: An artful approach to medicine
Vicky Hume and comedian Barry Cryer
Vicky brings art to the hospital
As part of a series of articles BBC News Online reporter Jane Elliott looks behind the scenes of the NHS.

This week we focus on how a musician is bringing the arts to a wider audience.

Blank walls with peeling paint are synonymous with Victorian style hospitals of old.

They look and are depressing and do not inspire any confidence in patients.

But a lick of paint and a few well chosen paintings or photographs can make all the difference.

Musician Vicky Hume, arts co-ordinator for the Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Trust, is very conscious of how important the arts are to life.


She feels particularly strongly about the effect that art can have in a hospital environment and the patients.

"Anyone who has spent time as a patient in hospital is conscious of the lack of stimulation in the environment.

I like working with the arts you are constantly dealing with interesting people
Vicky Hume

"It does make a lot of difference in the expectations of people about the type of care they will receive.

"In a hospital where the paint is peeling off the walls and there are pictures which were thrown into their frames in the 1950's they will have a very different impression from one which has seriously considered the use of the arts and how it can affect patient's state of mind.

"It is also a great way of getting art works to people who might not otherwise see your work."

Professor Duncan Geddes, Professor of Respiratory Medicine, is among those who is convinced that using art can make patients' hospital stays more pleasant.

"The Trust's new arts programme has been active in improving the environment to make patients' time in hospitals less traumatic."

However, art does not just serve to make people feel good - it may also speed up their recovery.

Among the advocates of this theory is none other than Prince of Wales, who has called for new hospitals to be built with this in mind.

Prince Charles, who agreed to be design Czar for the NHS, said he believed the environment had a profound influence over physical, psychological and spiritual well-being

Varied job

Vicky, who studied English Literature at university, said her passion for promoting art work throughout hospitals began as she temped in the NHS.

"I have always been interested in all types of art.

"I enjoy the job because I deal with all the different departments in equal measure."

Over the past couple of years Vicky has staged a number of varied exhibitions.

From the temporary installation of a laughing booth in the foyer of the Royal Brompton to an exhibition of original comedy prints, opened by comedian Barry Cryer - life is never dull.

But as well as making life more pleasant for patients the exhibitions can also be used to make life more interesting for staff.

"It really makes a difference to staff to know that someone is taking an interest in where they work and what they are doing.

"But I think we have some way to go to make it become standard practice."

Vicky, who plays keyboards and sings, said one of the most successful ventures had been when they persuaded musicians to come into the hospital to play for patients.

"A violinist went round the ward playing to the patients and that went down really well. He was taking requests and it was amazing how well he was received."

Studies have shown that music can reduce stress levels and Vicky explained that this had certainly seemed to be the case when they played at the hospital.


The venture was so popular that she is now hoping to book an act a month.

Other exhibitions in the pipeline include a photographic journey between the two hospital sites of the Royal Brompton and Harefield.

Showing the sites that people pass on their way to work, such as the Serpentine in Hyde Park. And alongside these will be anecdotes from staff about why a particular building or monument holds significance for them.

Vicky works four days a week, spending her fifth day concentrating on her music and says she loves the balance.

"I love my job. It is great. Particularly when it is going well.

"The reason I like working with the arts is because you are constantly dealing with interesting people, but because you are working within the NHS you are earth bound," she said.

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