ENO Breathe is a new ‘social-prescribing’ initiative that has been developed by the English National Opera (ENO) in partnership with Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, the opera company has announced.

The six-week pilot programme incorporates singing, breathing and wellbeing in order to support and enhance the recovery of Covid-19 survivors, in the first partnership of its kind between a leading arts organisation and an NHS Trust.

The initiative is led by ENO Baylis, the company’s learning and participation department, working closely with experts from the trust. A holistic online programme, it will bring together medical and musical expertise to offer support and self-management tools to those recovering from Covid-19, particularly with regards to posture, breath and anxiety.

Imperial College Healthcare already uses singing as part of an improvement in care aimed at people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and chronic respiratory issues, often related to smoking and asthma. ENO Breathe is being developed specifically for patients recovering from coronavirus, particularly those who are suffering from breathlessness and the anxiety this can cause.

Patients enrolled in the programme will learn techniques to help them focus constructively on their breathing, using music expressly designed to calm. This integrated approach will help train patients’ minds to work with their body.

Dr Sarah Elkin, consultant in respiratory medicine and clinical director of integrated care at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, commented: “As the country recovers from the effects of Covid-19, it’s important to remember that some patients recovering from the disease are still struggling with symptoms that can cause them significant distress, even after they’ve recovered from the initial illness.

“As doctors, we know from experience that community and social interventions have the potential to be incredibly powerful for these patients, as well as providing them with tools and mechanisms to cope with the impact of Covid-19 in the future.”

The programme will use lullabies, which cross boundaries of culture and are accessible to all, and tend to sit comfortably within a non-specialist singer’s vocal range. There are also powerful moments where lullabies appear in operas, providing the potential to link with an extraordinary range of operatic repertory.

Initially being trialled across London, the ENO and Imperial College Healthcare plan to expand the programme nationwide. It continues the ENO’s ongoing support of the NHS and in particular, Imperial College Healthcare, having made scrubs for the respiratory team during the pandemic.

Jenny Mollica, director of ENO Baylis, added: “The ENO is a firm believer in the power of social prescribing, and we want to make a difference to the lives of people and communities recovering from Covid-19. We are proud to be working with the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust to deliver this timely intervention at the cutting-edge intersection of arts, learning and health.

“Our new online programme ENO Breathe will provide participants with support from leading medical and artistic practitioners and offer them a unique opportunity to not only support their physiological recovery but also their mental health as they continue to recover from the impact of Covid-19.”



The English National Opera, in partnership with Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, has launched new programme ENO Breathe to support Covid-19 survivors.