From mosaics to music, paintings to poetry; art and creativity can be a real tonic for health, says UCLH arts curator Guy Noble.

My job involves...

Using art, music, poetry, and performance to help make our hospitals a caring and uplifting place for our patients. Research has shown that art in hospitals can reduce stress, depression, anxiety, blood pressure, pain intensity and the need for medication. It also improves staff morale. The arts can help mark and manage change, celebrate successes, create rituals, tell stories and ultimately help to connect us all.

How do you bring creativity to our wards and clinics?

In lots of ways! For example, musicians perform at the bedside of our elderly patients, children are encouraged to join art workshops on the ward to distract them from their anxieties and I work with artists to commission installations and exhibitions for our patients and visitors to enjoy.

What are your most recent projects?

Our newest hospital at Grafton Way features a photographic lightbox, which brings together the history of the former hospitals using images and recordings of staff and patients talking about their memories. I’m also currently working with colleagues to make the children’s and young people’s emergency department better suited for the patients they see. We are doing this by introducing colour, design, better signage and information, and improved seating.

What famous artists have you worked with?

At our cancer centre, you can see artwork, floor tiles and sculptures by famous artists such as Sir Peter Blake, Grayson Perry, Antony Gormley and Gillian Ayres OBE. The colourful installation hanging over the reception desk was created by Stuart Haygarth from objects washed ashore on the south coast of England. It is particularly magnificent! 

What’s the best bit about your job?

I love hearing comments from patients who say I have changed their day for the better. One carer contacted me to say his friend, who was having treatment for cancer and was in a wheelchair, had a ‘lightbulb’ moment after seeing an art exhibition at University College Hospital. It reminded him there was life and opportunity outside of the hospital walls. That simple gesture really brought home to me why I do the job I do!