Poems in the Waiting Room

PLEASE NOTE: This is an archived webpage and is no longer updated. For current information please visit www.pitwr.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/

Michael Lee

Poems in the Waiting Room (PitWR) is a national 'arts in health' charity that provides poetry cards for NHS waiting rooms. Readers keep the pamphlets as an enduring rather than ephemeral link with poetry. The supply is free and no charge whatsoever is made to patients or to their NHS hosts. The poems include work from the canon of English verse and contemporary writing - poetry from quill to qwerty.

Poetry cards have been published quarterly since autumn 1998, after a trial run in 1996. From spring 2007, some 750 NHS waiting rooms are supplied with a total of some 15,000 poetry cards. Over half a million poetry cards have been distributed since 1998. PitWR is the most widely read regular poetry publication, and also the most extensive arts in health programme in the NHS. A supply of each quarter's issue is sent to the Poetry Cafe and to the Poetry Library in London and in Edinburgh. The poetry cards also advertise Poetry Society events and similar items of poetry news.

PitWR has a mailing list of 1500 NHS waiting rooms wishing to join the scheme, but funds to supply only half this number. The Arts Council has failed to support the programme. Funds are provided mainly by the Editor's private company Lee Donaldson Associates Ltd through its Beatrice Trust. Additional support has been given by the Emerton Christie Charitable Trust and by the Oakdale Trust. Further, there has been welcome support through donations by private individuals who wish to promote poetry and who effectively seek to make art a feature of every day life throughout the community.

PitWR is committed to an independent research programme to explore the broad socio-economic aspects of poetry in the community and the related topic of poetry and therapy. It draws upon the expertise of the firm of consultant economists, Lee Donaldson Associates which sponsors the charity. The studies are published as a series of Research Notes: five have been issued. Notes One (April 2003) and Three (November 2004) assessed the socio-economic characters of the neighbourhoods served, and found that the scheme had established strong appeal throughout areas of social hardship. Note Three confirmed that the then greatly expanded PitWR had retained its broad appeal. Note Two (February 2004) reviews a range of studies in Poetry Therapy. It explores potential beneficial effect of poetry on waiting patients. The Note suggests that the poems may act as an adjuvant to a medical consultation. Note Four (March 2005) presents a survey of some 231 GP Practices with PitWR. The findings confirm the popularity of PitWR. The uptake by patients of the poetry cards was high, exceeding 90%, while 83% of practices felt the poems enhanced the patients' visit. Note Five (April 2006) presents a cost benefit analysis of Poems in the Waiting Room. It finds that the benefit amounts to some ten fold the cost in terms of improved patient satisfaction. Extensive summaries of each report are published on the web site  www.pitwr.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk.

PitWR has entered joint ventures promoting links between poetry and the visual arts. The first, with the National Needlework Archive, proved exceptionally successful. Over one hundred textile art pieces were produced illustrating poems in PitWR. The main public exhibition was held in January 2006 at the Menier Gallery Southwark Street London, through courtesy of Paintings in Hospitals. The exhibits have also been shown at specialist textile shows throughout Great Britain. The prospect of displaying the art pieces and their poems in NHS hospitals is being explored. The project is to be repeated during 2006 and 2007. PitWR are also discussing a similar project with the schools alumni of the Royal Academy of Arts.

Carol Ann Duffy is PitWR honorary president. A major objective of PitWR is to provide a showroom for contemporary poetry. Submissions suitable for waiting room reading are therefore welcome. Submission guidelines and copies of recent editions are presented on PitWR web site  www.pitwr.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk or directly from Michael Lee Founding Editor  [email protected]  or by post to the address below.

A Collected Edition of Poems in the Waiting Room covering each quarterly edition autumn 1998 to winter 2006 has been published at £12.50 including postage & packing: proceeds will help to fund development of PitWR. Orders, with cheque please, from PitWR PO Box 488 Richmond TW9 4SW.