New research will aid recovery from strokes

Stroke patients in Tayside are set to benefit from the announcement of an innovative research project that will study the impact of visual arts programmes in stroke rehabilitation.

Tayside Healthcare Arts Trust (THAT), in partnership with NHS Tayside’s Department of Allied Health Professionals and the Social Dimensions of Health Institute, Universities of Dundee and St Andrews, has been awarded research funds from the Chief Scientist Office (CSO) to lead a project to examine the effects on recovery and wellbeing of creative engagement in visual arts during in-patient stroke rehabilitation.

The project starts in February and will run until 2015. Artists will work with stroke patients from across Tayside in the rehabilitation units at Perth and at Stracathro. The impact of their work will be the basis of the research.

Patients will work with a visual artist during their in-patient stay and will explore the use of art materials as a rehabilitative activity.

Many will have never worked with visual art materials before and all will be coming to terms with impairments perhaps including weakness and communication problems.

Expression through art appears to help people develop their confidence, motivate themselves and recognise that they are more capable of achieving goals than they thought they were.

That, with the support of NHS Tayside, has been delivering and evaluating art programmes with stroke for a number of years through their innovative ST/ART Project partnership.

Chris Kelly, projects co-ordinator, said: “I have been developing this creative engagement model for the past 12 years and am delighted that we have now got recognition and support for our work at a national level. The announcement of the CSO award is the very positive culmination of that work and all the more remarkable as this is an unusual area for CSO to invest in.

“This research award takes our work to the next level where we can really start to look closely at how the model of creative engagement works and its effects on different participants. Dr Morris and her academic colleagues have brought knowledge, understanding and scientific rationale that will underpin the two-year study. This is an amazing opportunity to use scientific research to test just how much the arts have to offer in this area of healthcare.”

Dr Jacqui Morris, NHS Tayside said: “In collaboration with Professor Brian Williams from the NMAHP Research Unit at Stirling University, I lead a research apprenticeship scheme for nurses and allied health professionals who are interested in developing research ideas that emerge from their clinical practice.

“Chris participated in the scheme and we worked together to develop THAT’s work with creative engagement into a research project to explore its effects. As a physiotherapist, my main research interest is in stroke rehabilitation and recovery.

“Research in other areas has shown that providing opportunities for creative expression can be a powerful way to improve a range of physical and psychological outcomes. Being able to explore and understand this type of intervention in stroke patients is an important development that may shape the way that we deliver rehabilitation services in future.

“The research proposal we have developed is both complex and unusual so we have built a very strong supporting academic team to help drive it forward, with collaborators in Stirling, Edinburgh and Glasgow Caledonian Universities as well as our team in Dundee. Chris has experienced artists available to deliver the intervention, and we will be supported by the Social Dimensions of Health Institute.”