Art at the Heart (AATH)

Art at the Heart of the RUH

Art at the Heart (AATH) is the charitably funded, arts programme for the Royal United Hospitals NHS Trust and was first established in 2000. The RUH delivers acute health care to a catchment population of 500,000 residents across Bath & North East Somerset, North Wiltshire and South Gloucester. The RUH is a major employer in the Bath area, as a Foundation Trust Hospital it strives for excellence in its innovation and research.


  • To support the RUH Bath with an award winning art and design programme that stimulates healing and well-being and creates an uplifting environment for patients, visitors and staff.
  • Promote and champion the arts and health sector.
  • Build strong working partnerships across the community that we serve.
  • Objectives
  • Deliver arts projects to support the healing of patients.
  • Give patients, staff and visitors the opportunity to be creative and showcase their work.
  • Enhance the hospital environment.
  • Establish good working relationships with clinical staff and patients.
  • Encourage younger people to take part in arts and cultural activities, for example through student placements and involvement with schools.
  • Create a consistent standard of design and arts commissioning across ward/department re-furbishments and new-builds.

We source funding from RUH Charitable Funds, Local Authority and Lottery Funding. Regarding arts commissioning for new builds and re-furbs, funds are earmarked through Capital ex Chequer funds and also RUH Charitable Funds. Furthermore, we receive a commission on the sales we make through our Exhibition programme and also accept donations via donation boxes, main reception, online or post.

Description of the arts activity

The Visual Arts Programme features an award winning Central Gallery which can accommodate up to 100 artworks at a time.  

  • There are 400 artworks on display at any one time and range of media includes painting, print, photography, poetry and sculpture for the main internal courtyard garden.
  • The Arts Team plays a vital role in a number of art & design capital projects across the hospital.
  • A beautifully crafted map highlighting the arts supports wayfinding throughout the hospital.
  • RUH Heritage; an exhibition about Bath’s War Hospital which was built on the current site 100 years ago was funded by Heritage Lottery and includes tapestries of the Hospital created by young and older patients.


  1. ISoundbite brings a varied programme of live music to RUH wards and public areas, delivering high quality live music for older patients on 4 wards plus public communal areas of the hospital.
  2. Stitch in Time is a weekly creative textile reminiscence workshop led by the artist and volunteers and based on Combe Ward, a recently re-furbished award winning dementia friendly ward for older patients.
  3. Artsparks takes place on the Children’s ward and has been led by our artist for 10 years, ages range from 1-18yrs and take place in the Play Room or at Patient’s bedsides. Young people often experience anxiety and feel isolated if spending frequent periods of time in hospital. Projects are all patient led and diverse; the artist brings an amazing array of materials to work with and workshops are often inspired by particular themes, e.g The Bath War Hospital 3D Tapestry.

Details of the project participants

We estimate to reach approx. 200,000 patients, visitors and staff every year; with the majority having good access to the visual arts across the site. All members of our community can submit work for exhibition including individuals, art groups of all abilities, disabilities, mental health, schools, colleges and universities.

pARTicipate aims to improve the time in hospital for older and young patients at the RUH by encouraging and supporting social skills and increasing self-esteem and confidence through participation in the arts.

Weekly workshops and performances reach c8000 patients and their carers every year.
pARTicipate is completely free to access for patients, their families and staff.

We work closely with relevant ward staff including Dementia Coordinators and Play Specialists.

Referrals: Because we operate in an acute healthcare setting we can reach patients directly on the wards where we work and sometimes we have requests to visit other wards/patients.

Ethics and Consent: We follow the RUH guidelines when collecting feedback and gain permission for a carer if the patient is unable to consent. So far we haven’t needed to gain ethics approval but if we are successful in a funding research programme on the effects of music on a dementia friendly ward, then we will require this.

Project management

Delivery partners:
Art at the Heart RUH
Local & national artists & arts organisations
Live Music Now
Bath Folk Club
Bath Spa University
5x5x5=creativity: External evaluators
BANES Arts Development Service

AATH Team: Hetty Dupays, RUH Arts Manager. Tony Smith, Exhibitions Manager. Jess Shoemack: Marketing & Programme Support Officer. Frankie Simpkins: Musician in Residence. Edwina Bridgeman: Artist in Residence.
Volunteers x 5

Evaluation methods and findings

Evaluation runs through all projects and is particularly important when working at close contact with vulnerable patients.

As part of our G4A 2014-16 funding we recruited external evaluator and mentor Penny Hay from 5x5x5=creativity

It allows the team to:

  • Develop a reflective approach.
  • Support creative practice in action.
  • Develop the ability to analyse and evaluate different approaches to creative practice.
  • Gain personal and professional insights.
  • Make changes to and develop creative practice.
  • Dementia awareness training and other appropriate safeguarding measures in place within the Trust

Outcomes and outputs are monitored using:

  • Log books containing number of sessions and number of participants (including the percentage of those with dementia).
  • Postcards used as a space for participants to provide comments about the workshops.
  • Observations recorded in artists’ reflective journals about how the patients responded to the workshops.
  • Discussions with clinical staff to determine the ongoing benefits of the project.
  • Visitor’s comments on exhibitions and the permanent collection.

We gather feedback for evaluation and also publicise our exhibitions, music performances and events on our website as well as send out a quarterly e-newsletter. We promote internally throughout the hospital as well as externally in the press, magazines, social media and online listings.

We have produced external reports and more recently a pARTicipate evaluation film and last year we made a film about Bath Spa University exhibition ‘Fusion’. These films can be viewed via our website alongside pARTicipate 2016 Report along with other regular reports:

Supported using public funding by the Arts Council England