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Wellspring strikes a chord with patients

Two professional musicians funded through Nottingham Hospitals Charity have brought music to the ears of patients on a Nottingham ward.

James Tollhurst and Marc Block of Wellspring Music CIC pay weekly visits to specialist dementia Ward B47 at Nottingham’s Queens Medical Centre where they provide soothing and therapeutic music for patients as part of a project which received £7168 from the Charity.

Mandolin-player James and guitarist Marc play songs from a wide repertoire as well as taking requests on the ward. They bring with them a box of percussion and other instruments for patients to join in. Some play xylophone, shake maracas or sing along. Some even get up and dance to the music.

Marc, a former nurse, says: “There is increasing evidence that music lives in a deep and primitive part of the brain, so it cuts through a lot of what is lost with dementia, and connects to a person’s innate self. It is a great way of communicating with people who’ve lost other forms of communication.”

James, a community musician and music teacher says: “In a clinical environment, away from home, people can be anxious and scared. We provide a soothing, calming atmosphere and some familiarity to help people relax. It takes their mind off what is going on.”

Staff report noticeable changes in patients once they hear the music, some visibly brighten and become more engaged with their environment, others become calmer and less anxious.
Mental Health Occupational Therapist Lisa Patrick says: “Music improves mood. Even if you’ve lost language ability you can still understand and perceive music. It gives people something pleasant to concentrate on in a busy hospital environment, plus a reason to interact.

“Having the musicians visit the ward has visible positive effects for our patients and stimulates positive interactions. What Wellspring do is personalised. They get the patients involved. If someone is distressed, singing along to the music can help.

“Recently one of the patients had been pacing around the ward confused. When the musicians started playing a familiar tune she stopped pacing. When I next looked over, I saw the patient and one of the nurses dancing to the music. I later found out dancing was a big part of this patient’s life when she was younger and she thoroughly enjoyed re-living some of these moments.”

Providing music therapy is in line with NICE guidelines which recommend ‘therapeutic use of music and/or dancing’ as one of the approaches to be considered for use for people with dementia.

Nottingham Hospitals Charity Chief Executive Barbara Cathcart says: “We work closely with Nottingham Hospitals Trust to provide special benefits which make a significant difference to patients. We are proud to have been able to fund this project that is clearly of real value to patients with dementia.”


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