Artlift History

Artlift History


When Dr Simon Opher, a GP in Dursley, noticed that many patients were coming to see him with a range of health problems that were more social or emotional (as opposed to medical), he wanted to reduce the 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 conditions to these 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 an Arts for Health project and Artlift placed artists in fifteen GP, hospital and mental health settings in Gloucestershire.

The project was evaluated by a team of researchers from the University of the West of England. This evaluation laid the foundations for future impact reports driven by 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).
Artlift (Extension), Gloucestershire: Evaluation Report. University of Gloucestershire, U.K.).


Artlift was commissioned by NHS Gloucestershire to provide arts on prescription in nine community and GP settings across Gloucestershire, and funded locally by Malmesbury League of Friends to provide creative sessions in Wiltshire.

See further evidence for why art matters here.

Illustration by Imogen Harvey-Lewis