English National Opera and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust announce national rollout of ENO Breathe programme for people recovering from COVID-19

28th January 2021 in News

Following the success of an initial six week pilot, English National Opera (ENO) today announces that ENO Breathe is to be rolled out nationally, beginning today.

A partnership between ENO and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, ENO Breathe is an integrated social prescribing programme of singing, breathing and wellbeing, breaking new ground as the first of its kind created to provide crucial support to people recovering from COVID-19.

The programme’s combined approach brings together musical and medical expertise to combat the increasing need for support for those experiencing long-COVID symptoms. Building on techniques used by singers, the holistic online programme offers self-management tools for patients experiencing breathlessness, and the anxiety that this can produce.

Following an initial six week trial with 12 participants from September – November 2020, the programme will now be rolled out to up to 1,000 patients by participating healthcare networks across London and the North of England with a view to continuing to work with more post-COVID services across the country over the coming months.

The initial six week pilot proved to be successful following independent evaluation, with the participants reporting definite improvements in symptoms and wellbeing, indicating that ENO Breathe has had positive impacts for them both emotionally and physically.

Led by Baylis, ENO’s learning and participation programme, ENO Breathe uses weekly group online sessions and digital resources to empower participants with tools and techniques to help them focus constructively on their breathing. The programme focuses on breathing retraining through singing, using lullabies as its musical starting point. Traditional lullabies cross boundaries of culture, are accessible to all and their very purpose is to calm. Led by professional singing specialists, participants learn breathing and singing exercises, using an approach that mirrors techniques employed by opera singers who achieve the physical coordination required for singing via emotional connection and imagery, rather than by giving their bodies explicit physiological instructions. Participants are then equipped with exercises to practice these techniques in their own time, aided by online resources specifically designed to support their progress.

Jenny Mollica, Director of ENO Baylis said: ‘The ENO are committed to making a difference to the lives of people and communities recovering from COVID-19, using our unique skills and resources in ways that are relevant and useful – and that matter to people. Following our successful pilot programme, we are hugely proud to be able to roll out ENO Breathe nationally, enabling us to support many more patients in their recovery from COVID and journey back to wellness. Combining cutting edge musical and medical expertise, we look forward to continuing our partnership with Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, and to working with post-COVID assessment clinics across the country in this next phase of the programme.’

Dr Sarah Elkin, Consultant in Respiratory Medicine & Clinical Director Integrated Care at Imperial Healthcare NHS Trust said: ‘It has been a pleasure to work with ENO Baylis on this programme. As we continue to respond to the latest surge in COVID-19 cases in the UK, we must also remember those patients who are still suffering with COVID symptoms long after their initial disease. Ongoing breathlessness is debilitating and can be frightening. We hope this programme will support people to improve and help reduce their symptoms. We look forward to widening participation as the programme rolls out across the country.’

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘I am very grateful for the work of the ENO and Imperial College Healthcare Trust in helping those suffering from the impact of this terrible virus.

‘For many of those who have had the disease, the effects are felt months after the original infection and often acutely.

‘I’m sure this programme will help long-COVID sufferers both physically and emotionally.’

Culture Minister Caroline Dinenage said: ‘The success of the ENO pilot has clearly shown how breathing through singing can help those suffering with breathlessness. I am grateful to ENO for partnering with the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust to deliver this important programme which provides crucial support to people recovering from COVID-19.’

Tonya Nelson, Area Director, London, Arts Council England, said: ‘The results shown to date by ENO Breathe are very impressive, providing important physical and emotional support to those experiencing the effects of long-COVID. ENO’s partnership with Imperial College Healthcare is very welcome, illustrating what is possible when creative organisations partner with healthcare settings. I hope the national rollout brings support to many more people across the country.’

Harry Brunjes, ENO Chair: ‘Medicine and the Arts have come to understand that they have more in common than they knew.  ENO Breathe, this astonishing project led by Jenny Mollica, is the unprecedented interface of the ‘Art of Medicine’ and the ‘Science of the Arts’.  I am also extremely grateful to fellow ENO Board member, Professor Ajit Lalvani, who along with Dr Sarah Elkin, his colleague at Imperial, has been incredibly supportive of this momentous project.’

Stuart Murphy, ENO Chief Executive: ‘ENO has long been committed to using music to support others, in local communities, schools and vulnerable groups. ENO Breathe, led inspirationally by our Director of Baylis, Jenny Mollica, will now continue this work on a national level, bringing support to anyone who has been unlucky enough to be affected by this terrible virus. The ENO Breathe programme demonstrates the power of music, and how the arts and sciences can work brilliantly together. Huge thanks to our Chair, Harry Brunjes, Dr Ajit Lalvani and Dr Sarah Elkin for helping us to bring this pioneering social prescribing programme to the NHS, across the country.’

More information about ENO Breathe

Full press release