British Association for Music Therapy

January 25, 2016

Leading figures come together in Holyrood to help make music therapy an integral part of the dementia care journey

On Wednesday 3rd February, leading academics, researchers, commissioners and practitioners from the dementia sector will meet with MSPs in Holyrood, to debate how access to music therapy can be improved for people with dementia, their families and carers.

Sponsoring MSP Tavish Scott says,  ”I warmly welcome the British Association for Music Therapy to the Scottish Parliament. This is a great opportunity to recognise the significance of music to peopleb s lives. Many Scots struggle with long-term health conditions and music can play a wonderful, positive role. This event will be great for MSPs to learn all about the reach and importance of music therapy to many peopleb s lives.”

This roundtable discussion follows the initial roundtable which took place at Portcullis House during Music Therapy Week 2015, when there were strong calls for music therapy to be an integral part of dementia care. This meeting was the first step towards developing a national strategy to enable better access to, and greater provision of music therapy for people with dementia.

Leading research has shown that music therapy can significantly improve and support the mood, alertness and engagement of people with dementia, can reduce the use of medication, as well as help to manage and reduce agitation, isolation, depression and anxiety; overall supporting a better quality of life and wellbeing (Ridder et al, 2013). Music therapy is a person centred, non-medical intervention that can help people at all stages in their journey with dementia to enrich life and tap into the resources that people with dementia still have.

Over 800,000 people live with dementia in Britain and this is expected to increase to 2 million by 2050. In Scotland, 90,000 people are thought to be living with dementia, of which approximately 3,200 are under the age of 65. Currently, provision of music therapy for people with dementia is uneven across the UK and those diagnosed are often not able to access it when they need to.

Aisling Vorster, a Scottish music therapist says,  “As music therapists, we have the clinical skills, knowledge and training to meet the diverse needs of people with dementia, their families and carers at all stages of the condition; from first concerns through to end of life and bereavement care. Music therapy can help to reach those people who may seem to have become unreachable. It can help to re-build and sustain relationships where there is isolation and loss of identity. Music therapists provide inter-generational support, care and advice in the face of escalating trauma and loss; helping families to stay connected, improving the quality of care, and the quality of life for people with dementia and their families.

Music therapists have a unique contribution to make in supporting Scotlandb s National Dementia Strategy through successful partnership working, skill-sharing and collaboration, as well as direct work with those living with dementia. It is imperative now, as our new Health & Social Care Partnerships take shape, and as we approach the Scottish Parliamentary election campaign, to raise awareness of the robust music therapy evidence base in dementia care. We must stimulate debate and discussion, and campaign for increased funding and access to music therapy across the Scottish dementia population.”

Scotland’s Dementia Strategy states that providers in Scotland must work together, in partnership, towards improving support, care and treatment for people living with dementia, their families, and carers. This roundtable discussion will provide an opportunity to demonstrate how and why music therapy should be an integral part of the dementia strategy, not only in Scotland, but across the UK as a whole.

Ben Saul, Chair of BAMT Trustees says, “This meeting represents an important moment for music therapists across the UK. Research has shown the positive impact music therapy can have on quality of care and wellbeing. Daily we see and experience the benefits of music therapy reaching beyond people living with dementia to their families and carers. Music therapy enables people with dementia to be experienced in another way; it gives people back their identities, and enables them to be contributors and not just receivers of care. People with dementia are transformed by engagement in live music making. By bringing people together to form new relationships with partners in Scotland and strengthen those connections already in place, we can work together to help to embed music therapy into national strategy, and to help improve the quality of care f or people living with dementia.”


For further information, please contact:

Grace Watts, British Association for Music Therapy

M: 07989 355338