English National Opera's singing programme for people recovering from Covid-19 rolls out nationally

Following the success of an initial six week pilot, English National Opera (ENO) has announced that their ENO Breathe programme for Covid-19 patients will be rolled out nationally.

Working alongside clinicians from Imperial College Healthcare, the ENO’s unique integrated social prescribing programme of singing, breathing and wellbeing has been providing crucial support to people recovering from Covid-19 in London.

Following an initial six week trial from September to 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 working with even more post-Covid services across the country in the coming months.

Analysis of the initial six week pilot proved it to be successful, with the 12 participants reporting definite improvements in symptoms and wellbeing, indicating that ENO Breathe has had a positive impact for them both emotionally and physically.

Participant Richard says: ‘My experience with ENO Breathe has been fantastic, it has really aided me enormously with my breathlessness and also my anxiety a little around re-integrating myself back into society’.

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 create.

Many participants also felt that the group aspect of the programme was an important part of their positive experience, often lessening the isolation they had felt before by feeling part of a supportive community.

Participant Sheeba says: ‘As a non-native English speaker, I wasn’t sure I was going to fit in with ENO, but it has been a fantastic tool that has given me my confidence back’.

‘This programme has actually helped me in my personal life, so when I'm reading books to my children now and I have to do these voices, these areas of my life are coming back together.’

‘It’s prevented me from calling my GP about anxiety brought on by breathing issues. I genuinely believe it will take pressure off medical facilities.’

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 is led by singing specialists and focuses on breathing retraining through singing, using lullabies as its musical starting point. No experience or interest in singing is required.

Participants are then equipped with exercises to practice these techniques in their own time, aided by online resources specifically designed to support their progress. A dedicated post programme site of digital resources is also available to support participants to continue to self-manage their ongoing recovery, along with a chance to join a drop-in virtual singing group.

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 the 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.’

Strict monitoring and evaluation of the programme will continue in this next phase, with plans for a more in-depth research trial currently underway.