Royal Philharmonic Society Award win for ENO Breathe programme supporting patients recovering from Covid-19

The English National Opera’s ENO Breathe programme, developed in partnership with Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, has won the Royal Philharmonic Society’s (RPS) 2021 Impact Award.

The award recognises the support the programme has provided for patients recovering from Covid-19 who are still experiencing symptoms after their initial illness. The honour was accepted by the director of ENO’s learning and participation programme, Jenny Mollica, at a ceremony on Monday 1 November.

Commenting on the award win, Dr Sarah Elkin, lead respiratory consultant for the programme and clinical director for integrated care at Imperial Healthcare NHS Trust said: “I am delighted that the hard work of the whole ENO Breathe team has been recognised. We continue to be very grateful for the ENO’s dedication to supporting patients across the country who are suffering with Covid-19 symptoms long after their initial disease. As the country continues to recover from the pandemic we must remember that, for these patients, ongoing breathlessness and anxiety is debilitating and can be frightening.  

We have seen first-hand the impact that ENO Breathe has had for our patients but we are now also working with the ENO on a research study that will properly evaluate the programme. We hope the findings, which will be available soon, will provide vital information about the improvements in symptoms and help us to continue developing the programme so that we can best support people to improve wellbeing.”  

Some patients experience breathlessness for some time after they have recovered from Covid-19. This can increase anxiety, which in turn can cause patients to take shallow breaths, using only the top of their lungs, rather than inhaling deeply. Patients enrolled in the programme learn techniques to help them focus constructively on their breathing, using music that is designed to calm.  

Working alongside clinicians from Imperial College Healthcare,who continue to support the ENO team this online programme of singing and wellbeing has been developed as a unique option for integrated social prescribing. It brings together medical and musical expertise, providing new ways to support and empower patients through self-management tools for posture, breath and anxiety.

Following the success of the initial six week pilot in 2020, the ENO-breathe team announced that the programme would be rolled out for Covid-19 patients nationally and it is now offered by 52 centres across the country.

Strict monitoring and evaluation of the programme has continued through the latest phase, with an in-depth research trial currently underway to fully evaluate the effectiveness of the programme. Patients who have completed the sessions have reported significant improvement in their overall wellbeing.  

BBC Radio 3 will broadcast a special RPS Awards programme at 7.30pm on Monday 8 November featuring music of the winners. A film of the complete RPS Awards presentation will be available on the RPS website from 9 November.