Transforming Communities

Section Contents

Introduction to the toolkit

Musicians working in paediatric healthcare require a diverse skill set to effectively meet the needs of patients.  Taking a patient-led approach, musicians develop their creative practice with spontaneity and flexibility – continually adapting, adjusting and improvising around the patient. This approach brings a sense of adventure to each session leading to unique, unexpected, and meaningful shared experiences between patients and musicians.

Using ‘music for the sake of music’ as a primary language, healthcare musicians can innovate in infinite ways to connect with patients through music and sounds, without any clinical goals. It’s important to note that this toolkit does not refer to the work of music therapists, who are trained and licensed to achieve clinical outcomes through music.

The outlined approaches and skills draw from Georgina Aasgaard’s 15 years of experience delivering music at Alder Hey and insights from Live Music Now musicians working on the Minds Matters project. Georgina’s years of ‘learning by doing’, has enabled her to create a training and mentoring programme for Live Music Now musicians to expand the hospital’s team of musicians. This resource serves as a foundation to inspire more musicians to develop their own unique approach to working in paediatric care.

Alder Hey Children’s Hospital and Live Music Now

Alder Hey Children’s Hospital is one of the largest and busiest hospitals in Europe and the only one to be located in a park. It sees over 330,000 patients each year and has 4,000 staff. Alder Hey is a centre of excellence for cancer and spinal, heart and brain conditions, as well as being a specialist centre for head and facial surgery and a designated Children’s Major Trauma Centre. 

Alder Hey’s Arts for Health Programme, established in 2006, encompasses a broad range of participatory arts including music, dance and movement, visual arts, animation, film making and photography, performance and theatre, creative writing, contemporary craft, comics and illustration. All activities are patient centred and patient led; professional artists are guided by the patient and their needs, and improvise accordingly.

The aim is to improve patient wellbeing, support the patients to establish a better quality of life whilst in hospital and provide opportunities for patients to develop new transferable skills and life experiences, such as decision-making and creative expression. The programme is closely monitored and families are consulted on what is working well, and what they like.

Live Music Now is a national charity delivering social impact through music. Each year, Live Music Now trained, professional musicians deliver over 3,000 participatory music sessions in schools, residential care settings, hospitals and community centres.

Since 2014, Live Music Now North West and Alder Hey have collaborated to deliver  participatory music programmes in the hospital, with a focus on supporting the wellbeing of long-term patients and expanding the workforce of trained musicians in paediatric healthcare.

Read more about Live Music Now here.

Minds Matter Project

Minds Matter was an eighteen-month programme of music-making activities with patients at Alder Hey, addressing the emerging mental health crisis, post-COVID-19. Through a team of 9 musicians, the programme supported three categories of patients:

  • Patients with long-term physical conditions who have additional mental issues as a result of their conditions.  Research shows that patients can be up to five times more likely to struggle with their mental health compared with physically healthy children.
  • Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) patients receiving outpatient support.
  • Long-term inpatients on the inpatient mental health unit who live with complex and enduring mental health conditions.


The aims of Minds Matter were to:

  • Improve the emotional resilience of patients experiencing mental health issues, allowing them to develop a better quality of life whilst in hospital care.
  • Develop and improve the musical ability of patients experiencing mental health issues.
  • Improve the skills and confidence of professional musicians working with patients experiencing mental health issues.