Theatres saving NHS £100m a year

New statistics released today show that by benefitting physical and mental health in their audiences theatres are saving the NHS over £100m a year.

The figures have been released by UK Theatre and the Society of London Theatre to coincide with Creativity and Wellbeing Week.

The data comes from calculations using a 2015 report by DCMS and Simetrica which quantifies the health benefits enjoyed by people attending a cultural or sporting activity. The report found that the NHS saves a yearly total of £11.91 for every participant from a reduction in GP visits and use of psychotherapy services.

This data was combined with UK Theatre and SOLT’s 2018 audience attendance figures (collected from nearly 300 venues) showing that over 34m people attended the theatre that year, reaching a figure for saving to health services of £102,234,585.

It is a method used by the HOME performance arts centre (pictured) in Manchester which calculated its £26m economic impact on the city from 2019 to 2020, including a £1m saving to NHS services.

“These findings show the difference the arts can make when working with their communities to support people’s health and wellbeing - highlighted by our own 2019/20 economic impact assessment, which measured the role of HOME in reducing GP visits and the use of mental health services to the effect of an incredible £1m cost saving to the NHS” said HOME’s executive director, Jon Gilchrist. “Across the industry, the potential impact of this is huge, especially when theatres and cultural organisations forge partnerships to provide a range of opportunities to engage with arts and culture.:

Although theatres have been closed throughout the pandemic they have remained essential community hubs, with online educational resources, interactive family events, digital productions, creative workshops and even programmes to help rehabilitate Covid sufferers, alongside venues offering space, supplies and skilled volunteers to help the NHS.

As lockdown eases and some theatres start to welcome back in-person, socially distanced audiences, evidence of the power of theatre to enrich people’s lives physically and mentally will be used to help secure the financial support the theatre sector needs to survive.

‘We know from a significant and growing body of international research that the arts, creativity and culture are critically important to sustaining our health, to tackling major social problems like loneliness and isolation, and to building our communities” said the executive director of the Culture, Health & Wellbeing Alliance, Victoria Hume. “This startling statistic is yet another important piece in the puzzle, and drives home the message that we cannot dismiss the arts and culture as nice-to-haves.”

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