Monday 21st December 2015
Mac Voice, the magazine for Macmillan professionals: Winter 2015
The organisation Room For You links artists and counsellors to run therapy sessions, writes Mark Mulqueen.
Room for You is a charitable company based in Newcastle upon Tyne, which has existed for 14 years. Our core service is based in the three main hospitals providing cancer treatment in the North East: the Northern Centre for Cancer Care in Newcastle, City Hospital in Sunderland and Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead. We have also established three ‘Arts for Well‑being’ workshops in areas identified by Macmillan as ‘cold spots’ for therapeutic provision in the North East of England. These are in Blyth, Alnwick and Hexham, all in the beautiful county of Northumberland.
We pair a professional artist with a qualified counsellor who acts as a facilitator, meaning sessions are run with a high degree of sensitivity to the experiences and feelings of those having treatment. People can participate however they choose; whether by engaging with an arts activity, or talking with the facilitator, artist or others attending. People value having some time and space to review how cancer is impacting on their life with a non-medical ally.
A sister in a cancer unit said, ‘The artists and counsellors from Room for You provide extra time with people that our staff cannot always guarantee. This helps patients and staff, who are able to leave patients engaged in something they enjoy.’
We can alter what are sometimes sterile medical spaces by introducing colour, creativity and interest.
At St Bede’s Palliative Care Unit, a ten-bed residential hospice, we have installed an 11-foot wall hanging and three other large artworks. We’ve designed a soft furnishing colour scheme and set up a ‘memory tree’ in the staff room. Each of the individual rooms has a bespoke name plate based on the castles of Northumberland.
6,000 participants each year
The Arts for Well-Being workshops take place over six weeks. Macmillan refers 12–14 patients and carers to us each month.
On average we engage with 550 people a month across our hospital and community-based services in seven sites. This means we engage with over 6,000 people each year. We use staff observation and experience to record each one-to-one encounter, recording basic information about people and the range of issues they present with. Average percentage improvement across all well-being categories from our workshops over the last ten months is 25%.
With this information we are able to build up an emotional landscape for our stakeholders and NHS trusts, on how people are feeling and coping during treatment. The workshops are overtly accepted by healthcare professionals, which in turn gives patients and carers confidence in them. This helps their continued success as part of integrated services for people with cancer and carers in the North East of England.
Email Mark Mulqueen. Arts Co-ordinator and Fundraiser, Room For You: Newcastle Upon Tyne.