Investigating the impact of music therapy on inpatient mental health wards for people with dementia

Project: There is growing evidence showing the benefits of music interventions, including those delivered by a qualified music therapist, for people with dementia in community and residential care settings. We are looking at how music therapy impacts people with dementia and those who care for them on inpatient mental health wards. We have conducted an audit of music therapists who work in this setting. This provided us with an insight into how music therapists work in this setting currently – with many offering one group a week – while the low number of respondents (15) suggested that few wards have access to this intervention.

We have recently completed an evaluation of a current music therapy provision on two wards through a retrospective analysis of the number of incidents on days with and without music therapy and interviews with staff (including music therapists, occupational therapists, occupational therapy assistants, healthcare assistants, and medical staff). Findings show trends of fewer incidents on days with music therapy than on the same weekday without music therapy, with staff reporting on the wide-ranging benefits of music therapy for people with dementia and staff on the wards and requesting more access to the intervention.

We are now looking to design and pilot an enhanced music therapy provision. From needs identified by staff and previous research, we anticipate this will involve multiple days of music therapy allocated to the ward with activities which could include: assessments, creating personalised interventions, delivering group and individual music therapy, supporting staff.


Researchers: Naomi Thompson (nee Chadder); Research Assistant; Cambridge Institute for Music Therapy Research, Anglia Ruskin University; Prof Helen Odell-Miller, OBE; Director of the Cambridge Institute for Music Therapy Research, Anglia Ruskin University;

Dr Ben Underwood; Honorary Consultant Psychiatrist; Cambridge and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust;


Involvement: We are seeking the involvement of people with lived experience of older people’s mental health wards in the design of a multiple-day music therapy intervention in the first instance. Further involvement will include advice on designing a research study to test the effectiveness of the intervention. Anybody with lived experience of dementia would be valuable to the study, including people with dementia, family members and/or carers. However, people with experience of inpatient mental health wards for people with dementia would be particularly helpful as this study is focusing on this setting.


Time commitment: 1.5 hrs (online or in person) meeting with breaks every 2-3 months according to need.


Payment: Members will receive £10 per hour for their time and contribution. Please note, this income may have implications for those claiming benefits. All income must be declared to the Inland Revenue.


Contact: If you are interested in this project please let Iliana know as soon as possible:

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