A hospital trust is prescribing lullabies to help patients recover from Covid-19, in a partnership with English National Opera.
Patients suffering from breathlessness and anxiety will be given a six-week, online programme of “singing, breathing and wellbeing”.
Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust said some patients continue to experience breathlessness for some time after other Covid symptoms have disappeared.
“This can increase anxiety, which in turn can cause patients to take shallow, panicky breaths. Patients enrolled in the programme will learn techniques to help them focus constructively on their breathing, using music expressly designed to calm,” the Trust said.
Traditional lullabies have been chosen as they “cross boundaries of culture and are accessible to all. By their very nature, they tend to sit comfortable within a non-specialist singer’s vocal range.”
The approach is designed to “help the patients’ minds to work with their body and will mirror techniques employed by opera singers who have to trick their bodies into performing complex physiological tasks”.
The programme, ENO Breathe, will initially be trialled in London but there are plans to expand it across the country.
The Trust already uses singing to help patients with respiratory problems, often related to smoking and asthma.
Dr Sarah Elkin, consultant in respiratory medicine and clinical director of integrated care, said: “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.”
Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, praised the initiative and said “social prescribing” had a clear role to play in treat those who have contracted the virus.
Caroline Dinenage, Culture Minister, said “I hope this innovative combination of music and medical insight will bring help and comfort to many on the road to recovery.”