Poems in the Waiting Room

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Poems in the Waiting Room

To wake the soul by tender strokes of art,
To raise the genius and to mend the heart...
Alexander Pope
The Healing Environment
An enthusiastic and grateful reader from Ealing wrote to Poems in the Waiting Room. "What a really lovely idea! Thank you very much for lighting up our doctor's surgery waiting room. The day's weather was awful! The atmosphere in the waiting room none too healthy. But your poems are all wonderful - and meaningful. Well done and thanks......"

Waiting Room Poems

Poems in the Waiting Room (PitWR) is a registered arts in health charity (No 1099033) which supplies short collections of poems for patients to read while waiting to see their doctor. In a patient centred NHS, poetry arts in health too needs to be patient centred. The readers are patients - the worried well and the worried sick. The poems draw from the springs of well-being. In time of trouble, a measure of comfort is welcome The poems cover both the canon of English verse and contemporary works - poetry from Quill to Qwerty.

There is no charge to the patient or to the NHS host. The poems are presented as a three-folded A4 pamphlet, printed both sides on card. The poetry cards are distributed quarterly. Each poetry card provides some seven or eight poems with about two hundred lines or so of poetry.

The registered arts in health charity's aim is to help form the healing environment. It also seeks to show gratitude to health service staff for their care and to promote poetry. The patient may keep the free poetry card as an enduring rather than ephemeral contact with the poetry.

PitWR has concentrated NHS Primary Care. This usually neglected sector provides particular advantage for the arts in health. The units are small scale, directly involving of practice staff, whose enthusiasm is a key to success. General practice deals with the public in their daily routine, so benefits flow directly into the community. Further, general practice is diffused throughout every sector of the community. PitWR has achieved a strong appeal across a wide spectrum of social and economic diversity. The poetry pamphlets are taken away by patients in the high-rise concrete wilderness as in the leafy suburb. PitWR reaches parts other arts cannot touch.

To extend the range of its activities PitWR has launched a scheme specifically designed to develop Poems in the Hospital Waiting Room PitWR for Hospitals. The project supplies a special edition of the poetry cards and poetry posters that can be endorsed as sponsored by each individual hospital. Patients will see them as part of as the hospital's own arts in health.

Collected Edition of Poems in the Waiting Room

The Collected Edition of Poems in the Waiting Room has been published. The book presents every quarterly issue of Poems in the Waiting Room published from autumn 1998 to winter 2010, fifty short collections of poems selected for their power to help the patient.

The Introduction sets out a brief history of the arts in health charity that started as a simple scheme in and around Kew Gardens Richmond but which spread, often by word of mouth, to become the most widely read national poetry publication and the most extensive arts in health programme in the NHS. 

The book can be obtained by direct mail from Helen Lee Administrator Poems in the Waiting Room 12 Abingdon Court Lane Cricklade Wilts SN6 6BL 4SW price £15.00 (Cheques payable to Poems in the Waiting Room) or orders for copies with invoice by email pitwr@blueyonder.co.uk It is the only item that PitWR makes a charge for. Proceeds will help to keep PitWR going.

 Visit Poems in the Waiting Room News for latest information about the project.

Growth of Poems in the Waiting Room

Almost one million poetry cards have been made freely available to NHS patients and staff since the scheme launched in its current format in autumn 1998. PitWR is the most extensive arts in health programme in the NHS. It was also described in a House of Lords debate as the most widely read national poetry publication.

The original idea in 1998 was to serve locally only some thirty surgeries in South West London. But soon demand grew, fuelled mostly by word of mouth. The number of surgeries served had risen to over 450 by 2002. To meet demand, distribution was extended nation-wide, and a major expansion programme was launched 2003. The number of waiting rooms currently served totals some 1400.

PitWR still welcomes requests to join the scheme from NHS general practises and similar health service units. All that is needed is a request together with contact names and address.


PitWR started as a small scale charitable project in Richmond, Surrey. Its success aroused international interest. PitWR meets requests to start overseas schemes with offers of a licence to use the copyright to PitWR locally, seed core funding, editorial advice on poetry selection, copyright and guidelines together with management advice on launching and developing PitWR locally. The sole conditions are adherence to the PitWR editorial guidelines and production of poetry cards in similar format to UK so as to preserve a worldwide image.

Following discussion with the British Council, a policy statement on the ways in which PitWR may encouage the development of Poems in the Waiting Room World Wide has been published.

The first international launch was in County Kildare Eire. The most successful was launched in Dunedin Otago New Zealand. The Otago project soon spread throughout New Zealand with strong support from local poets and local health services.

Work continues with co-operation with existing schemes in Eire and New Zealand. A new scheme has just been launched In Sydney.


Submissions of poems to be published in the series are welcome. PitWR seeks to become a nationwide showcase for contemporary poetry. Submissions should follow Poems in the Waiting Room Submission Guidelines. Free samples of the poetry cards may be obtained from the address below.

A Collected Edition has been published covering the series from autumn 1998 to winter 2010. The volume includes poems, both old and new, from fifty editions, of poems that flow from the springs of well-being. The volume can be obtained directly from the address below (Price 15.00 pounds inc. p&p). Proceeds will help support the charity.


The prime source of funding long-term, to complement private trust funds, is  the PitWR Friends scheme. The scheme was launched with the spring 2008 edition. The response has proved very encouraging and a steady growth is envisaged over the coming years.

Poems in the Waiting Room is popular and well received across a wide range of social diversity. For this reason, there is no fixed Friends subscription, since all are welcome. Some poems are long and some are short, but all are important. It is the same with donations: the suggested range is from fifteen pounds to one hundred or more, according to means.

The project was initially sponsored Lee Donaldson Associates Ltd, the founding editor's private Company of economic and environment consultants. On PitWR's registration as a charity, the Company established The Beatrice Trust, with the family of the editor as trustees, to manage gift aid. To ensure PitWR's future, The Beatrice Trust has guaranteed a core funding grant annually for until 2010. The Trust also provides seed funding for international development. 

The Carlisle based The Emerton Christie Charitable Trust made an unsolicited grant in January 2006 and doubled this sum subsequently. The funds have been devoted to expanding PitWR in the Carlisle and the Newcastle localities.

In spring 2008, The Tanner Trust, founded to commemorate the British industrialist Basil Tanner made a substantial donation. This grant led to supply to NHS surgeries in Cornwall, Oxford, Bucks, Sussex, Essex and the Merseyside, areas of special interest to the Tanner Trust.

Additional supplementary support was given through spontaneous grants from the Oakdale Trust and the Caetani-Howard Charitable Trust.


Poems in the Waiting Room, Registered Charity (No. 1099033), is incorporated as a Company limited by guarantee (04836215) and is managed by the trustee body and Executive Committee, providing professional advice in literary and executive editing, production and distribution of the poetry cards.

The Executive Committee has been expanded with the retirement of Michael Lee,formerly Executive Chairman. The Chair is now held by Wendy French;  Serge Lourie is Director of Poems in the Waiting Room; Edmund Simon Lee is Honorary Secretary and Treasurer of Poems in the Waiting Room. Isobel Montgomery Campbell is Editor; Ciorsdan Glass is Executive Editor; Elizabeth Mary Anne Patience Consultant Analytical Psychologist; Michael Sheridan Stone is Director of PitWR Worldwide  Michael Lee remains on the Executive Committee as Founding Editor and consultant.

All donations to support PitWR are welcome. Postal donations as gift aid may be mailed to the address below. Donations can also be made by mobile phone. PitWR is part of the 'Just Giving' system for charities by Vodafone. The system is simple to use. Any mobile phone owner can text a code to a special number to make a donation of between one and ten pounds directly to us. To make a donation you send a text containing just the code PTWR05 (Note we needed to drop the letter 'i'), followed by Pound Sign with either the figure 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 10, according to the amount you wish to donate, to the number 70070. So, for instance, to donate ten pounds, just text PTWR05 pound sign 10 to 70070. The donation is deducted from your pay-as-you-go-credit balance, or added to your monthly bill. A thank-you text comes back.

A Family Doctor in Sussex wrote in appreciation of PitWR "Many thanks for yet another packet of Poems in the Waiting Room which we thoroughly enjoy. This is a great addition to our surgery and a personal joy to me... Nothing heartens me more than seeing people walk into my room bearing a copy which they will take home with them..."

Wendy French Chair
Poems in the Waiting Room
4 Myton Road
West Dulwich

Registered Charity Number 1099033

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