Twice a week the corridors of Whitby Hospital ring with the sounds of music.
Each Tuesday and Friday Whitby’s patients at the hospital are treated to a live musical performance as part of a new pilot scheme designed to make their stay at the hospital a little bit groovier.
The scheme is run by the charity Music in Hospitals, which seeks to improve the quality of patient’s lives, using music as therapy.
Jo Davis, Arts coordinator for Hospital Arts for North East Yorkshire, said: “For people recovering from illness, life on a hospital ward is filled with long days and this makes people feel cared for.
“If you’re taking the time to bring in musicians and performers, it makes them feel they are not being ignored. Hospitals are here to care for people’s physical wellbeing, but this stimulates the mind.”
The lottery-funded project is currently only taking place at Whitby Hospital and has seen professional musicians entertain patients in the stroke and elderly rehabilitation wards since July.
A different singer or musician attends each week, making for an interesting and varied programme.
Fred Melville (88), a retired fire officer who used to play for a top Liverpool team - he wouldn’t say which - but is in Whitby Hospital after injuring himself during a fall.
He said: “Last week two lads came, one played the violin and the other played the accordion and they were marvellous.
“It takes away the monotony of the hospital, it’s just a break, an hour or so makes a heck of a difference.
“It takes us from looking forward to the coffin, it makes us feel as though there’s a bit of a future and we would like to live a little longer.”
Music is a useful tool in rehabilitation and therapy as not only does it restore hope, but it can also help stroke victims recover memories, while arthritis sufferers find the clapping can help soothe their joints.
“Sometimes it gets quite raucous and people take part, singing along and clapping, generally having a good time,” said Mrs Davis, who pointed to one patient who was listening to the music beside her daughter, who was visiting her in hospital, and added: “Instead of just sitting next to a bed with somebody, she’s sat with her family listening to the music, so it’s more of a natural environment.”
The funding has been granted by Awards for All, a Lottery grants programme that funds small, community-based projects across the UK. The programme runs for six months and includes Christmas.
Harpist Margaret Knight, who performed at the hospital as part of the project said: ‘‘There was a patient who started to sing with the very first piece I played, even though it was not a well known tune.
“I encouraged him to sing some more songs of his choice and it turned out that he had a fantastic baritone voice. Everyone else was encouraged to join him and we had a right old sing song.”
Afterwards the patient, who had been in hospital for three and a half months, commented: “Today you have unlocked my heart, I have missed music so much and today has been the best day for a long time.”
All patients in the stroke and elderly rehabilitation wards, as well as those in the day unit, are invited to the sessions and refreshments are provided. The ‘Music in Hospitals’ musicians are specialists who are used to working with patients and are sensitive to their needs.