New Museums on Prescription project will explore the role of museums in social prescribing writes Dr Helen Chatterjee, a biologist in UCL’s School of Life and Medical Sciences and Head of Research and Teaching in UCL’s Department of Public and Cultural Engagement, and the project’s Principal Investigator.

In July 2014 at UCL we will begin a new 3 year project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council to explore the value and role of museums in social prescribing.

Social prescribing links patients in primary care with local sources of support within the community which can improve their health and wellbeing. ‘Museums on Prescription’, or MoP as we affectionately call the project, is the first of its kind internationally and will research the development and efficacy of a novel referral scheme. The project will connect socially isolated, vulnerable and lonely older people, referred through the NHS, Local Authority Adult Social Care services and charities, to partner museums in Central London and Kent.

The research project is a collaboration between a number of organisations including The British Museum, Sir John Soanes Museum, UCL Museums & Collections, Islington Museum, Tunbridge Wells Museums & Art Gallery, Canterbury Museums and Galleries, Camden Council, Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust, Kent County Council, and Kent and Medway NHS Partnership Trust. We are also really pleased to be working closely with Age UK Camden, Canterbury and Tunbridge Wells, Arts Council England, the New Economics Foundation (Nef Consulting) and the RSPH. Nef Consulting will undertake a cost-benefit analysis to understand the collective impact of the MoP scheme on health and social care services. ACE and RSPH will help us with dissemination and impact, and we’ll be co-publishing a number of reports with them and organising a series events – watch this space to find out more or visit our website (see below).

The scheme will complement existing social prescription services including ‘arts on prescription’ and ‘books on prescription’ and we will work in partnership with organisations such as the RSPH, ACE and local branches of Age UK to roll out ‘museums on prescription’ nationwide.

Since 2006 we have been researching the role of museums in health and wellbeing. A series of research projects, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and amounting to over £1million, have helped to establish UCL as the leading centre for research in this area. We have been working with over 30 different museum partners from large national museums such as the British Museum to smaller or regional museums such as The Beamish Museum, Museum of English Rural Life and Dulwich Picture Gallery. Most recently this work has led to the publication of the first book on the topic entitled ‘Museums, Health and Wellbeing’ (Chatterjee and Noble 2013, Ashgate Ltd).

Professor Paul M. Camic, Professor of Psychology & Public Health and Research Director, Salomons Centre for Applied Psychology, Canterbury Christ Church University, is the project’s Co-Investigator and Dr Linda Thomson, UCL, is the Lead Postdoctoral Research Associate for the project. We are also very excited to have Dr Theo Stickley, Associate Professor of Mental Health at the University of Nottingham, as the project’s External Advisor as Theo has done some fascinating work around arts on prescription.

In the first year of project we will be reviewing existing social prescribing schemes with a view to developing the MoP scheme and testing its efficacy with our partners. If you have information that you think is relevant for our research we would love to hear from you. Please contact Linda: linda.thomson@ucl.ac.uk

For more information about UCL’s Museums on Prescription project visit: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/museums/research/museumsonprescription

For more information about UCL’s Museums and Health research visit: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/museums/research/touch