Music therapy project helping stroke patients recover faster

13 December 2021

Music therapy project helping stroke patients recover faster
An award-winning music therapy project has helped to rehabilitate stroke and neuro-rehab patients at Charing Cross Hospital.

Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust’s specialist rehabilitation and arts therapies provider Chroma Therapies have worked together to deliver the project, which was funded by Imperial Health Charity.

The initiative was the first of its kind in an acute stroke unit.

Neurological Music Therapy, or NMT, aims to support a faster recovery for patients with brain injuries through a variety of techniques. Rhythm, melody, and pitch are used as key elements in rehabilitating patients, including helping to improve the patient’s gait and control over language.

"The project gave a strong indication that patients who accessed the service were discharged sooner than expected."

Karima Collins, Speech and Language Therapist

“Music has the power to influence, and activate different parts of the brain,” said Karima Collins, Speech and Language Therapist at Charing Cross Hospital. “The NMT project gave a strong indication that patients who accessed the service were discharged sooner than expected.”

95% of patients who were surveyed found music therapy was key in their recovery. One patient, who had difficulty walking, saw a significant increase in steps per minute with musical input.

“The patient went from using a frame to walking unassisted in a single session,” said Daniel Thomas, Managing Director of Chroma. “Therapists were able to start referral for early supported discharge.”

Music therapy is also instrumental in supporting the mental health and wellbeing of patients.

“The reality regarding the severity of their condition can induce feelings of hopelessness, depression, and low motivation,” Daniel said. ”Individual successes within the NMT sessions helped to increase motivation for all other aspects of their rehab journey, improving mental health.

"A positive outlook helps the patient achieve their rehab goals - maybe even sooner than anticipated.”

Part of the initiative involved encouraging patients to join group therapy. In these sessions, patients would sing and play music together.

“It was a chance for people to support and uplift each other. A lot of patients said that they forgot about the world for a brief time when in a music group,” Karima said.

The successful initiative has made a major impression in the healthcare world. In 2020, the project won the Advancing Healthcare Award for Excellence in Neurorehabilitation. At Imperial College Healthcare, 100% of patients who were surveyed said they would recommend music therapy for stroke and neuro-rehab patients.

Prior to NMT, the therapies team often found it challenging to engage stroke patients. They found music brought patients out of themselves – a mechanism to engage with even quite severe patients.

“NMT has enriched the existing therapy programme at Charing Cross Hospital and allowed the therapy team to reach many patients who were previously unable to engage in rehabilitation,” Daniel said.

Imperial Health Charity awarded two grants totalling £80,000 to support the project over three years.

Video filmed pre Covid-19 pandemic.