Personal Views

Pipe dreams

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: (Published 13 July 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:111
  1. Terry Smyth, head of faculty of music, arts, and health (
  1. Colchester Institute, Colchester, and pathway leader: MA in health and the arts

    Picture a hospital corridor stretching out into the distance with, at regular intervals, ward doors leading off to the right. The corridor is dominated by heavy pipes, suspended from the ceiling, running its whole length. At intervals, their course becomes confused—merging, separating, thenmerging again, like railway lines passing through a hideously complicated junction.

    The value of the arts in health needs to be recognised at all levels

    I am in this corridor—one of a group of health professionals and artists, refugees from a local health and arts conference. We are listening, with varying degrees of concentration, to an earnest member of the hospital staff as he draws our attention to a series of fairly undistinguished woodcarvings, mounted on the wall adjacent to each ward entrance.

    Unfortunately, however attractive the carvings might be in their own right, and however subtly the artists have incorporated references to the name of each ward, here they are overwhelmed, and overwhelmed totally, by their environment—inevitable losers in an unequal struggle. Whoever thought that …

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