Camilla Greenwell © Move Dance Feel CIC, Sibohan Davis Studio


The National Centre for Creative Health (NCCH) has worked in partnership with NHS England Personalised Care Team and Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) in Gloucestershire; Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin; Suffolk and North East Essex; and West Yorkshire, to develop this toolkit to support other ICSs to embed creative health in their systems.

Being creative and taking part in cultural activities can help keep us well, aid our recovery from illness and contribute to longer lives, better lived. Creative health approaches can help meet major challenges such as health inequalities, ageing, long-term conditions, loneliness and mental health. And they can help save money in health and social care.

What is Creative Health?

Creative health activities can include visual and performing arts, crafts, film, literature, cooking and creative activities in nature, such as gardening; creative health approaches may involve creative and innovative ways to approach health and care services, co-production, education and workforce development.

Creative health can be applied in homes, communities, cultural institutions and heritage sites, and healthcare settings. Creative health can provide tools for engaging with communities that often do not get a voice and support a better understanding of the issues they face.

Creativity and cultural engagement can have a positive impact on the social determinants of health, the conditions in which we are born, grow, work, live and age, mitigating the effects of health inequalities. Creative health can contribute to healthy places and healthy lives, building on individual and community strengths.

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Richard Mark Rawlins © Hospital Rooms, Springfield Hospital, South West London and St George’s Trust

How you can use the toolkit

The toolkit considers the enablers and barriers and is structured so as to illustrate how systems can deliver against the forthcoming NHS England Maturity Matrix for Social Prescribing, with reference to five domains: Leadership, Strategy & Governance; Planning & Commissioning; Workforce Development; Digital & Technology; and Evidence & Impact.

The toolkit will support systems to work with the assets in their communities and to develop their own approach. The aim of the tool kit is to embed the benefits of creativity in all health and social care systems, from integrated care system planning to delivery by grass roots organisations.  It will support commissioners, link workers and the voluntary community social enterprise sector to work collaboratively and deliver better health outcomes for communities and individuals.

The toolkit includes short illustrative examples, drawn from the four systems but also from other places around England. We would like the toolkit to be iterative and welcome your suggestions for examples which might be of interest to other systems. You can submit illustrative examples here.

Creative Health in Systems

Here we focus on how you can integrate and embed creative health in Integrated Care Systems.

Creative Health in Context

Creative health in the context of health inequalities; self-management; health and care settings; and the life course.

Creative Health in Action

The following pages contain a series of checklists as a means to prompt thought around developing and delivering creative health approaches and interventions.