A HARPIST is brightening up the wards at Furness General Hospital as part of a project to bring the outside world to patients.

Mary Dunsford, who has played the instrument for 25 years, has had ward residents clapping, tapping their toes and singing along after bringing her ‘harp in healthcare’ project to the site.

The aim, she said, is to provide a window to the outside world through ‘short cultural exchanges in live music’ – both by patients’ bedsides and in communal areas.

“It is relaxing and a special touch for our patients, staff and service users,” said Barry Rigg, community engagement manager for the trust.

“We are grateful to Mary for sharing her skills and talent within our local hospital.

“Research has shown that the introduction of live music into healthcare can enhance the quality of care, improve communication, empathy and understanding of patients’ needs, reduces stress and the perception of pain.

“We are receiving many positive responses; patients engaging with performers is a very special experience which everyone present can feel involved in.”

Ms Dunsford has performed in top concert venues including the Royal Albert Hall, Sheffield Hallam FM Arena, and the Sage, Gateshead, and has a particular passion for playing Cumbrian tunes on the harp.

In addition to playing with more locally-based orchestras and choirs, she has regularly performed with the National Festival Orchestra.

She undertook specialist training with OPUS Music CIC, in order to be able to deliver her music effectively in hospital.

And patients have reacted positively, with one saying: “We were so thrilled with the musician. It had a big impact on the ward.”

Executive chief nurse, Sue Smith, added: “We’re delighted that Mary has chosen to share her talent with our patients and hope they continue to enjoy the music she provides.”

Mary was helped in her project by the Sir John Fisher Foundation.

She visits the site each Wednesday.