Manifesto For Music: How We Can Utilise Music To Benefit Society

On Social Prescribing Day, UK Music's Interim Head of Public Affairs Hannah McLennan examines the power of music to support our health, wellbeing and communities and what the Government can do to embed this into our society.

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On Social Prescribing Day, UK Music’s Interim Head of Public Affairs Hannah McLennan examines the power of music to support our health, wellbeing and communities and what the Government can do to embed this into our society.

Music can deliver proven health, wellbeing, and societal benefits. Research proves that when you listen to music you like, your brain releases dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter. Among other things music therapy reduces agitation and the need for medication in 67% of people with dementia, significantly reducing the spend on anti-psychotic medication. Research has shown that music can reduce stress for patients undergoing surgeries and colonoscopies, for children undergoing medical procedures, and for patients with coronary heart disease and playing a musical instrument can help children with cerebral palsy to improve hand movement and strengthen their sensorimotor skills.

This is why, in 2022, UK Music collaborated with Music for Dementia (The Utley Foundation) to publish the Power of Music report.

The report demonstrates how music can support staff, create financial savings, and help to achieve improved health and care outcomes for the whole country.

Since the launch of the report progress has already been made. At the end of 2023, Universal Music UK launched Music Can, an online platform to help people living with dementia, their carers and musicians to feel confident about using music as part of their care. The website includes a directory of support, playlists, music activities and advice. Its easy-to-navigate functionality has been informed and designed in partnership with people with lived experience, practitioners, and experts.

The Power of Music Fund, established by the National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP), and kickstarted by a £1 million contribution from the Utley Foundation, as well as generous support from Arts Council England, Music for All and others, aims to raise £5 million for the fund in total. The first round of funding was launched in late 2023, and allowed grassroots dementia choirs and music groups to apply for small grants to cover basic costs, like room hire, travel and refreshments. There was also a larger grant of £500,000 available for a new centre of excellence; a partnership between health and care providers, voluntary organisations, music providers and dementia support organisations. The centre of excellence will test new approaches to embedding music as part of dementia care, gather evidence of cost savings for the NHS, and design new models of care which could be scaled up and spread across England.

While this is a fantastic start, more can be done. If we want to see the full benefits of what music can do for society, then the Government needs to:

  • Better integrate music into health and care pathways by training frontline health workers on the role of music in health and care. Establishing an accessible training module would enhance health workers understanding of music’s role in healthcare and boost skills. NHS plans and care pathways should acknowledge the vital role of music in health care, for example, the Care Quality Commission could explicitly expect services to include music as part of their care.
  • Establish a Power of Music Commissioner. The appointment of the UK’s first Power of Music Commissioner to champion and coordinate all the work in this area – setting up a new Government taskforce and a Life With Music Consortium to spearhead positive change.
  • Establish a cross-government taskforce made up of civil servants from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport,  the Department for Education, the Department for Health and Social Care and the NHS reporting to Ministers. The taskforce would bring together different areas of government to co-ordinate a cohesive strategy to better integrate music into health, social care, and wellbeing on a policy and legislative level.
  • Embed a module for musical care training routes at undergraduate, postgraduate, diploma level and vocational routes. The government and music sector should work with higher education providers to establish, accredit, and embed modules on the use of music to support health and care; within five years we want all post-16 music courses to be enabled to include a module on using music in health and social care contexts, including music and wellbeing.

Read UK Music’s Manifesto for Music to find out more about what UK Music is calling for action on ahead of a general election. 

Find out more about how the power of music can our health, wellbeing and communities here.

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