We often talk at Lapidus events about the potential for social prescribing. People say how wonderful it would be if GPs had more understanding of the potential of CWTP and related practice to promote health and well-being.
In April, Clare Scott, Chair of Lapidus was approached by Jenni Regan of the London Arts in Health Forum requesting input into a day of ‘Arts and Health’ for trainee GPs. This was to be part of a two-day residential for a group of GPs from the Greenwich area taking part in the General Practice Vocational Training Scheme (GPVTS) – the training route for GPs in the UK.
The location of the residential was beautiful Bore Place near Sevenoaks in Kent. That’s a long way from Clare in West Wales but a short train journey for me in Canterbury, so Clare asked if I would deliver the workshop on behalf of Lapidus.
It took place on the 21st May, a day of radiant sunshine and the Weald of Kent was at its most lush, the hedgerows overflowing with wild flowers and the grounds of Bore Place were fragrant with prolific herbs and full flower borders around mellow old barns, cottages and a grand house.
The twenty five trainee GPs arrived full of enthusiasm in spite of traffic delays – many had already experienced the residential weekend in their first year of training and there was sense of schools-out but also purpose and wanting to learn.
The driving force of the initiative was Eugenia Lee, a GP at the Gallions Reach Health Centre in Greenwich. She is a Trustee of the London Arts in Health Forum and has a great understanding of and interest in Arts and Health. The trainees themselves selected Arts and Health as the focus for the first day of their residential.
The purpose of the day was to introduce the GPs to the concept of Arts and Health activity and also show them how they can use the arts for their own wellbeing. Jenni from LAHF wanted them to leave the day with a basic knowledge of the sector knowing the power such projects can have, for them to be advocates for arts and health activities and also to feel confident when accessing or suggesting arts and health to patients or colleagues.
I ran a 90 minute writing workshop twice during the morning with the group splitting in half to do another activity in parallel. As well as writing, other activities included acting with Helena Rice of Bubble Theatre, drawing with Vikki Parker of Doodle Café and singing with Rosie Dow of Breathe HR.
I introduced some short warm-ups including doing an acrostic with our names and free writing. The participants were amazed at the depth of insight they gained from such simple techniques. I gave some background to this kind of work, introduced some of the evidence of its efficacy, including work by James Pennebaker and Joshua Smyth and also talked about Lapidus. We then read and responded to Mary Oliver’s The Summer Day and wrote our own poems in response. I was moved and impressed by the commitment, thoughtfulness and compassion shown by these young people who have chosen probably one of the hardest and least appreciated areas of medicine to work in. One of the valuable aspects of the day was being able to chat over lunch and join in the afternoon sessions.
Jenni wrote afterwards:
‘Thank you Vicky – it was a fantastic session. The weather and setting helped but I think they all surprised themselves at how much they got from writing. In the feedback a couple said they were going to return to writing for pleasure! Thanks Claire for organising, we are hoping to do this again and would love to have Lapidus involved.’