Artlift History

Artlift History


When Dr Simon Opher, a GP in Dursley, noticed that a lot of patients were coming to see him with a range of health problems that were social or emotional as opposed to medical, he wanted to reduce the high number of unnecessary medical consultations by offering alternative non-medical treatments.

So he engaged an “artist in residence” at the surgery and began referring patients to take part in creative activities. When he referred patients with anxiety or stress-related disorders to art classes, he noticed that for some the number of surgery visits reduced and there were significant improvements in their mental health.


The Arts Council and Gloucestershire County Council funded a partnership Arts for Health project, ArtLift, that placed artists in fifteen GP, hospital and mental health settings.

The project was evaluated by a team of researchers from the University of the West of England. This evaluation laid the foundations for future evidence gathering and rigorous data procedures.


Artlift became a registered charity (number 1151580) and continued to offer alternatives to drug therapy for patients with a range of health issues.
The University of Gloucestershire carried out a qualitative evaluation  which built on their 2011 and 2012 evaluations, and found that:

“Artlift provides a valuable and supportive mechanism for NHS patients to improve their mental health.”
Reference Baker, C., Crone, D., Clark-Stone, F. & Kilgour, L. (2013).
Art Lift (Extension), Gloucestershire: Evaluation Report. University of Gloucestershire, U.K.).


Artlift was commissioned by NHS Gloucestershire to provide Arts on Prescription in 9 community and GP settings across Gloucestershire, and funded locally by Malmesbury Primary Care Centre’s League of Friends to provide creative sessions at MPCC in Wiltshire.

See further evidence for why art matters.

Artlift Projects

Looking for a referral form?

Are you a Gloucestershire or MPCC GP or Health Practitioner?

GPs and other health professionals can refer people for a course of art either alongside or instead of medication and other interventions.

Artlift is also looking for GPs or Health Practitioners interested in hosting Artlift Residencies.