for Arts
& Culture
Visual Arts/Museums | Across Wiltshire and Gloucestershire

ArtliftArts on Prescription

Artlift offers a range of artist-led “Arts on Prescription” courses and projects to support improved and sustained health outcomes for participants.

Artlift co-produces interventions with participants and health partners. In Gloucestershire, current work is with adults with diagnosed mental health conditions, long-term chronic pain and/or living with or beyond cancer.

Artlift also currently delivers a residency in Malmesbury Primary Care Centre in Wiltshire.

Artlift and close working partner University of Gloucestershire hold the largest known body of data on wellbeing, depression and anxiety. Its work is rooted in robust data analysis and evaluation informing the organisation’s and wider sector understanding and development.

Arts on Prescription was originally set up by GP, Dr Simon Opher MBE in response to frequent visits by patients experiencing depression and anxiety.


© Artlift


© Artlift

Target Beneficiaries

Target beneficiaries are currently adults living with long-term and/or significant mental health conditions, many with associated physical health conditions including long-term chronic pain. Also, adults who are transitioning back from secondary to primary care following treatment for cancer.

Participants are referred to Artlift by a wide variety of health or community wellbeing professionals, including GPs, mental health professionals, nurses, occupational therapists, pain management service staff and social prescribers.  They can be referred for a course of art either alongside or instead of medication and other interventions such as talking therapies.

All programmes are designed to give participants the arts tools to self-manage their conditions in the longer-term which includes support with a ‘Move On’ plan enabling people to continue engaging with their community and/or to practice their art independently if they wish.


The programme is delivered predominantly in community spaces (including a gallery and museum), and two primary care settings, across Gloucestershire and Wiltshire.

Participants take part in eight or twelve-week courses of two to three hour creative sessions which are led by a professional artist. Artlift artists draw on a wide range of artforms, offering choice wherever feasible, including drawing, illustration, painting, photography, printmaking, crafts, textiles, creative writing, film, sound and movement and dance. There are usually 8-12 people in each group.

The emphasis of the sessions is on creativity rather than technical ability and, in so far as possible, participants choose a group that best suits their schedule, location and interests.


Evaluation has been carried out using the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (WEMWBS), the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-8), the General Anxiety Disorder scale (GAD-7) and the Pain Scale which showed a significant increase in wellbeing for patients.

Evaluation found that:

  • Artlift helped participants move away from being defined by their condition, toward the idea that they were defined by their art
  • Artlift provided participants with the sense that they were better able to control the symptoms of their condition in the short and long term by being able to focus on art-based activities as a means of coping
  • Acquiring and developing specific skills gave the participants tools to respond to periods of increased mental and physical stress
  • Regular attendance at courses provided a familiar and safe space in which to build trusting relationships with other participants. This improvement in confidence helped participants to reconnect with family and friends
  • There were positive impacts on wellbeing also for those living with co or multi-morbidities

Cost benefit analysis:

After six months of working with an artist:



Net reduction in NHS costs (after the cost of Artlift interventions) of £216 per patient

Data analysis:

The ‘recovery rate’ for participants in their projects is in the region of 67%.




‘Artlift – evidencing the impact’ film


I had split up from my partner, found myself without anywhere to live and couldn’t see my children. I couldn’t work as I wasn’t physically able to do the job and wasn’t in a position mentally or financially to start a building business again after going bankrupt. Since going to Artlift… I no longer take any medication and, although I am not without problems, I find that as long as I can paint I can cope. 

Participant who attended Artlift for six months following a stroke

If it weren't for this place, some of us wouldn't be here.



Originally funded by Arts Council England and Gloucestershire County Council. Currently supported by Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Macmillan Cancer Support and Wiltshire County Council. Additional core and project funding is currently in place from the National Lottery Fund – Awards for All, Henry Smith Charity, Gloucestershire Community Foundation, MPCC League of Friends and Malmesbury Area Community Trust.