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Last Updated: Sunday, 23 November, 2003, 00:53 GMT
NHS stories: Hospital's light relief
Work by Shaun Dolan
Nurses immortalised as cartoons
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 cartoons of hospital staff are helping to reassure and entertain patients.

Two end of the pier style cut outs are dominating a hospital exhibition on cartoons.

Staff and organisers hope they, along with the other exhibits, will perform the dual role of entertaining and putting patients at their ease.

Volunteers from all over the Royal Brompton and Harefield Trust were photographed in their uniforms doing silly things and the work was then turned into sketches.

Staff were then asked to vote on their favourites and public artist Shaun Dolan transformed two of them into life sized figures, with holes so that people could put their heads through.

Cartoons

Arts co-ordinator Vicky Hume said the staff cartoons were proving very popular with other staff and patients.

"It's a great way of involving staff in the exhibition and encouraging them to have a look at all the cartoons.

It is wonderful opportunity for patients and staff to enjoy an aspect of the hospitals together
Professor Duncan Geddes, Professor of Respiratory Medicine

"Plus it gives a bit of light relief to patients and visitors who might be nervous of dealing with clinical staff for the first time in a big institution like the hospital."

Studies have shown that laughter reduces levels of certain neurochemicals such as catecholamines, which are related to stress, and has a positive effect on the body.

Professor Duncan Geddes, Professor of Respiratory Medicine agreed: "Laughter stimulates a number of body functions such as heart and respiratory rate probably through the release of a mix of 'happy' hormones.

"This leads to increased well being, better mood and makes illness easier to bear. Research is looking into whether laughter actually speeds recovery and early results are promising."

And he said the continued programme of bringing art to hospitals was proving popular with patients, visitors and staff.

Work by Helen Martin
Comforting the exhausted senior house officer

"The Trust's new arts programme has been active in improving the environment to make patients' time in hospitals less traumatic - the project has recently focussed particularly on humour; this exhibition is the sequel to the successful residency of a Laughing Booth in June, and broadens the concept of humour to embrace the artistry of cartoons.

"It is wonderful opportunity for patients and staff to enjoy an aspect of the hospitals together.

Humour

The Hoot exhibition, featuring work by major international cartoonists including Gerald Scarfe and Captain Star creator Steven Appleby, aims to bring some light relief to visitors and staff as well as brightening up the walls of the NHS.

One cartoonist Steven Appleby said he had been delighted to be asked to donate his work to help transform bland hospital walls.

Mr Appleby, who suffers from arthritis and Crohns disease, spends much of his time in hospitals and said he was delighted to see art in an NHS setting.

"I think it is great that they are using art this way and it is great as a patient.

"I have a long-term illness and have been going in and out of hospitals and so I was pleased to see this.

"It helps patients by giving them something to look at and makes the whole place seem more interesting."



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SEE ALSO:
A picture of health
03 May 03  |  Health
Battling cancer through art
05 Jan 03  |  Health
Art as mental therapy
03 Jul 02  |  Health
Beautiful science inspires artists
28 Feb 01  |  Science/Nature


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