My two worlds – art and health finance – rarely cross, so it was doubly interesting to be shown around some of the art commissioned by www.vitalarts.org.uk in the hospitals of the Barts Health NHS Trust – England’s biggest. The Trust doesn’t pay for the art, but Director Catsou Roberts has done an impressive job seeking external funds to enable artists to make work for clinical settings. The highlights of a 2,000-strong collection include Cornelia Baltes’ wooden birds, Roger Hiorns’ copper sulphate stoppages of discarded office clocks from The Old Royal London Hospital, and striking work by Peter Liversidge, Hurvin Anderson, Richard Slee and Kim Rugg. Roberts gets plenty of positive feedback, but can art be proven good Value for Money in the cash-strapped NHS? Perhaps, in that a collection valued at £2m has been leveraged out of a budget of £100,000 per year for the art team which also runs music, dance and craft workshops across five hospitals. That represents just 4p per head of the 2.5m population served and a mere pinprick against Barts’ total annual budget of £1.4bn. The art could help towards creating a positive environment, which increases wellbeing and can speed recovery times. That’s a good thing in itself, of course – and when a hospital bed costs upwards of £300 per day, it takes only a tiny impact on length of stay across Barts’ 2,000-odd beds to give a positive financial return. That sounds feasible, quite apart from supporting the arts, which I naturally favour with my other hat on.
Most days art Critic Paul Carey-Kent spends hours on the train, traveling between his home in Southampton and his day job in London. Could he, we asked, jot down whatever came into his head?