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Poems for Hospitals | 04-May-07

Poems for Hospitals is a recent initiative as a subsidiary programme of Poems in the Waiting Room (PitWR). It currently being piloted in a number of major London hospitals. The programme is designed to solve a twofold solution to the difficulty of supplying the voracious demands from major hospitals for supplies of PitWR poetry cards. The standard bundle of twenty pamphlets suitable for a three doctor practice is quite inadequate to meet the demand from NHS hospitals. Not only are patient flows often heavier but waiting areas are numerous and widely dispersed. Requests for some 1200 or 2000 pamphlets per hospital are typical. This level of supply would rapidly exhaust PitWR's budget.

The name, Poems for Hospitals echoes the well recognised place of visual and musical arts in NHS hospitals, by two long established major arts in health charities - Paintings in Hospitals (Registered charity 1055963) and Music in Hospitals (Charity 11051659). Poems for Hospitals therefore completes a trinity of arts in health. The word 'for' in the title is preferred to 'in' since 'in' suggests that the poem itself might be the patient. The phrase was first suggested by Carol Ann Duffy, PitWR Honorary President.

Hospital Specific Poetry Cards

The principal aim of Poems for Hospitals is to meet the high volume demand for PitWR poetry cards expressed by many major hospitals and similar NHS institutions. The programme offers to print special copies of each quarter's poetry cards with information specific to each hospital. The lay out of PitWR poetry cards provides a news panel; with Poems for Hospitals this news panel can be adapted by each Hospital taking part in the scheme to print its own special news or message. The proposal would thereby produce special poetry cards specific for each hospital, with the news panel and other items tuned to carry a special hospital message. The face of each poetry cards would show the Hospital as the sponsor, such as Sponsor The Friends of Oakdale Hospital.

A large number of poetry cards could be provided for each hospital quite economically as a run on from our main printing for General Practices. The costs are considerable reduced over those that would be incurred if the cards were printed from the start by each hospital, while the hospital benefits from the free editorial of the poetry content. Also with this arrangement, costs per card diminish rapidly as numbers printed rise.

To support the programme, hospitals would be asked for a contribution to cover print run-on cost. The recent Department of Health Report on Art and Health strongly supports this approach. It notes "There has been some debate about whether the NHS should invest in or be involved in arts and health, and in some cases this has made it hard to secure resources. We noted that historically in many cultures, arts, health and wellbeing were regarded as closely connected and complementary. This recognition, grounded in the understanding that health is a product of the whole person not just of medical treatment, lies at the heart of many of the successful approaches to engaging with the public and patients, as well as in providing positive support for staff.

"In our view, spending on arts and health is and should be seen as a legitimate, integral part of health care and good staff management and support, and entirely appropriate for NHS activity and investment, for instance for health promotion. There is an opportunity now to make existing partnerships even more constructive in delivering results.

"Although many called for further funding, and it is clear that additional money would always be welcomed, we believe that tackling issues about awareness, evidence and understanding are the most effective way to increase investment, and is in keeping with ?Creating a Patient-led NHS?. It should also be made clear that local health communities know best how to use the arts in their own work, and it is for them to decide what they wish to fund and how, rather than being the subject of any central approach. Report of the Review of Arts and Health Working Group April 2007 Ref 7621 Paragraphs 12,14 & 15)"

The Department rightly sees the initiative as lying with the local hospital and community who know best patients' needs and can judge value of different initiatives to serve the patient.

Poetry Posters

A supplementary feature of the Poems for Hospitals programme is the provision of a supply of free poetry posters. Each poster presents a poem published in the quarterly PitWR series. The system has been designed to operate as follows. Poems for Hospitals provides one copy each, on A4 scale with 14pt or larger text, of a batch of poems. This A4 sheet acts as a master copy or template for production by the hospital of an adequate supply of its own posters. The copyright position for each poem has been cleared for this use: Poems in the Waiting Room offers formal indemnity for each in the batch of poems distributed.

The Hospital reproduces the A4 sheet through photocopying, making as many copies as they feel they require. If necessary, the posters can be laminated by the hospital for longevity and for safety. The staff then display the poem posters wherever and however they feel fit. The process involves a strong element of involvement and commitment from the hospital staff; the products are in fact their own posters, and NHS staff therefore enjoy greater share in and ownership of the Poems for Hospitals programme. A different series of poetry posters will be provided regularly to ensure that the current stock does not pall with staff and patient. Series A of twelve poems is currently on offer, including poems from the canon and contemporary works.

The poetry posters will provide a casual introduction to the poetry available in the poetry cards. Posters of themselves are a limited and in some ways unsatisfactory means of presenting poetry as they lack the close and intimate involvement of a reader with the poem that flows from the private enjoyment of a poetry card. Further, a poetry posters produces only fleeting linkage to a poem; the poetry card reader is invited to keep a PitWR poetry card as an enduring bond with the poems.

Samples of hospital specific poetry cards and the poetry posters for Poems for Hospitals are currently available. For further information contact us or write Poems in the Waiting room PO Box 488 Richmond TW9 4SW

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