Wellness with WNO: Innovating rehabilitation through song

31 March 2022

Over the last couple of years, the benefit of music and community has become more apparent than ever before. With an estimated 71,000 people in Wales experiencing the long-term effect of having coronavirus, Welsh National Opera has created a new musical community to support people in Wales experiencing feelings of breathlessness, stress or anxiety due to long COVID.

Recognising the serious and potentially debilitating impact of long Covid on health, Wellness with WNO was created in partnership with Betsi Cadwaladr, Cardiff and Vale and Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Boards and is supported by a grant from Arts Council of Wales via the Health and Wellbeing Lottery Fund. It was planned with NHS medical professionals in consultation with English National Opera, based on their original ENO Breathe project.

The response to the programme has been amazing and we expect the formal evaluation results due shortly to support this. There are many life-affirming stories and testimonials from the people who’ve taken part. People have also avoided urgent trips to hospital by using the techniques and advice given.

Emma Flatley, WNO Director of Programmes and Engagement

The first pilot programme was launched in November 2021 and a second 6-week pilot started in January 2022. Sessions were conducted in both English and Welsh and were carried out via zoom, to erase the geographical barrier. This also allowed people experiencing fatigue to attend without travelling. 

Humming averted the emergency trip to hospital. I tried the [WNO] breathing exercises first when my oxygen went dangerously low. Within half an hour I tried humming and got out of the danger zone avoiding hospital admission. And the cost of that was averted. Knowing that I could do that myself was amazing.

Wellness with WNO participant

In June 2021 the Welsh Minister of Health & Social Services launched the ‘Adferiad’ (Recovery) programme, based on the All Wales Community pathway, which offers health professionals the package of comprehensive education and resources for managing long COVID across NHS Wales. The Welsh Government have now announced a further £5m investment in long COVID rehabilitation services in Wales. 

Innovative programmes like the one being run by WNO show significant benefits to health and wellbeing and I hope this funding will create opportunities for patients to take up other programmes like this to support their recovery and rehabilitation

Eluned Morgan, Health Minister

Following an overwhelmingly positive response, both physically and psychologically, Wellness with WNO will be expanded to reach a wider number of people across further health boards in Wales in 2022/2023.

This programme has a magical sort of transformation…. you can't put a price on that. It’s the first thing that has given me hope for my breathing. This programme is special. It gives us hope. It gives you something to make you look forward.

Wellness with WNO participant

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