5 July 2023 marks 75 years of the National Health Service and since its inception it has been innovative and adaptive in order to meet the needs of each successive generation, always putting patients at the heart of everything it does.
Founded by Welsh MP Aneurin Bevan on 5 July 1948, inspired by the Tredegar Workmen’s Medical Aid Society, the NHS was the first universal health system to be available to all, free at the point of delivery. Those principles remain as relevant, and valued, today as they did then.
During the pandemic, the NHS showed its resilience during a very difficult period. It was at the forefront of research and led a very successful vaccination programme beginning in December 2020. In April 2022, Health Minister Eluned Morgan announced an ambitious plan to help the NHS in Wales recover from the pandemic, transform planned care and reduce waiting times in Wales.
In partnership with NHS Wales Health Boards, Welsh National Opera has been delivering a singing and breathing programme for people with Long COVID.
Wellness with WNO is a six-week programme designed to support people experiencing feelings of breathlessness and anxiety that have continued longer term after the initial symptoms of the COVID-19 virus.
Launched in November 2021, the programme is delivered in a relaxed setting where participants are invited to explore singing and performing techniques used at WNO, with the aim to support improved breath control, lung function, circulation, and posture. Almost 200 participants have completed the programme so far, with many also engaging with the Company longer-term at drop-in sessions to continue their progress.
Wellness with WNO increases shared experiences and connections with others, with participants valuing peer to peer support. The most reported physical health outcome was improved breathing with 94% of participants reporting that the techniques were effective. Many participants also noticed an improvement in their emotional wellbeing with changes to mental health, including increased positive emotions and confidence and reduced anxiety, depression, overthinking, and panic. Many participants even decided to join choirs and re-start karaoke following their time on the programme.
Gabby Curly, Wellness with WNO Participant
All aspects of my life changed after COVID. Day-to-day tasks took longer because I needed to take regular rests. Physically, the Wellness with WNO programme gave me practical breathing exercises to relieve muscle tension around my ribs. Emotionally, the support I received made me realise that I wasn’t alone. During the sessions, all my worries went out of my head, and I found a real joy in taking part in singing. It’s a great mood booster
In January this year it was announced that Wellness with WNO would be expanding across Wales and all seven health boards are now able to offer the rehabilitation service to patients.
Health Minister Eluned Morgan said:
‘It has been heartening to see the success of the Wellness with WNO project and the significant benefits it has provided for people’s health and wellbeing. I am glad this programme will be expanded so even more people can take up the project to support their recovery and rehabilitation.’
The Wellness with WNO programme wouldn’t exist without the incredible support and input we receive from NHS staff across Wales.
April Heade, WNO Arts & Health Producer said:
‘WNO feel very lucky to work in close partnership with clinicians who offer endless compassion, generosity, and expertise – allowing us to complement existing services through our non-clinical intervention which we have seen support symptoms, spark joy and even reduce hospitalisation.
We are also incredibly grateful to all NHS staff who have supported our Come & Sing in Hospitals programme across hospital wards in Wales over the years. It brings us immense pleasure to provide a musical experience each week for long stay individuals and importantly the staff who care for them.
I am looking forward to seeing how our partnerships with the NHS continue to grow so that, together, we can support the health and wellbeing of as many people across our communities as possible. We plan to keep singing together for many years to come!’