Welsh National Opera (WNO) has announced that it is to expand Wellness with WNO, its rehabilitation programme for Long Covid sufferers, to six further health boards in Wales. The service is offered to patients through direct referral to NHS Long Covid Services.
The programme teaches patients techniques and strategies used by professional opera singers to support breath control, lung function, circulation and posture. Sessions are delivered via Zoom to enable those living with fatigue to have access to the programme without any barriers due to geographical location or ability to attend in-person sessions.
Wellness with WNO also focuses on patients’ emotional wellbeing, with the sessions introducing participants to the joy of singing, even if they have no musical background. They are also provided with a means of interacting with others who may be experiencing similar challenges with Long Covid symptoms.
WNO producer April Heade commented: “We know that the arts make a particularly powerful contribution to our health and wellbeing, and we have seen first hand the enormously positive impact these sessions have had on participants who have attended so far.
“We are delighted to now be able to expand the reach of the programme further across the country with the support of the NHS Wales Long Covid Services, to improve the health and wellbeing of as many people as we can as part of their overall treatment.”
The sessions started in November 2021. More than 100 participants have completed the six-week course so far, with many also engaging with the company longer term at drop-in sessions to continue their progress.
Feedback from participants has indicated improvements in mental health, with an increase in positive emotions and confidence, and reduced feelings of anxiety, depression, overthinking and panic.
Wellness with WNO participant Gabby Curly said: “Physically, the Wellness with WNO programme gave me practical breathing exercises to relieve muscle tension around my ribs and help me to relax with my breathing.
“Emotionally, the support I received made me realise that I wasn’t alone. In the sessions, all my worries went out of my head and I found a real joy in taking part in singing.
“And you don’t have to be a good singer at all! I now have the confidence to sing out loud and not be conscious of whether I’m singing in tune, simply because I know how much it can help.”
Wellness with WNO was created in collaboration with NHS medical professionals and has been developed in consultation with English National Opera based on its award-winning ENO Breathe project. Sessions are available both in the English and Welsh language.
The programme has been supported by the Arts Council of Wales: Arts, Health and Well-being Lottery Fund, to specifically benefit the people of Wales both physically and mentally. It is being delivered in partnership with Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, Cardiff & Vale University Health Board, Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board, Hywel Dda University Health Board and Swansea Bay University Health Board.
WNO hopes to further expand Wellness with WNO this year, in order to support as many people as possible to access the programme.
Wales’s Health Minister Eluned Morgan said: “We are continuing to learn more about the long-term effects of Covid and we believe our approach of treating, supporting and managing people through our unique service model is the most efficient and effective way of achieving the best outcomes for people experiencing Long Covid.
“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.”
Further information on the programme is available from WNO’s website.
Wellness with WNO participant Jeremy Lewis, at his home, as he takes part in the programme for Long Covid sufferers (Jamie Chapman).