Mike White writes: There was a hatchet job in Sunday’s Independent on arts in hospitals based on perfunctory information extracted on NHS expenditure on art works (accessible here). Those of us who are driving the development of the National Alliance for Arts and Health are deliberating whether to make a response as the piece appears at a time when an all-party parliamentary group is being established in Westminster to consider the place and purpose of arts in health. In my view we should let this article lie (literally?) as the media hack’s angle on arts and healthcare is invariably obtuse, out to expunge aesthetics from the hospital league tables in favour of ‘patient choice’. Substitutional service expenditure on ‘what really matters’ in the NHS is put forward without the caveat that most hospital art works are funded from external sources and capital budgets. So believe what we read and let’s face it, the Francis report is wrong, we don’t need a culture of healthcare, just more wonder-drugs and machinery. While we’re on this, let’s get rid of chapels and multi-faith rooms too, and those landscaped areas that deprive us of parking. Sack the managers, ban the artists and strip the walls of all malarkey. Have only essential staff keep their overworked jobs in a stark environment that crushes care and compassion and facilitates clinical error. It is time for our politicians to make the hard decisions – means test us all, sterilise the feckless by depriving them of benefits, and tell Johnny Foreigner that Austerity rules the waves and that we are keeping the NHS British, except where it can be privatised. All of this reminds me of Lindsay Anderson’s satirical film Britannia Hospital (1982) – oh, and query: did Mid-Staffs NHS Trust have an arts in hospital programme? If it didn’t, then QED; but if it did, the arts in health profession is stuffed.
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