skip to main content

BAPAM: the Specialist Healthcare Service for Professional Musicians

Health, safety and wellbeing are vital to MU members, most of whom are freelance musicians and so receive no sick pay. Fortunately, the British Association for Performing Arts Medicine (BAPAM) can help.

Last updated: 09 December 2020

It would be extraordinary to expect that a professional athlete could sustain a career without a single injury. The act of repetitious behaviour from a young age, using a particular set of muscles to perform to the highest of their ability, brings with it an inherent risk. Professional musicians similarly experience intense levels of strain. 75% of musicians will suffer from some form of injury during their career, as a result of intensively using particular parts of their body every day, according to Claire Cordeaux, director of the British Association for Performing Arts Medicine (BAPAM).

How musicians can benefit from BAPAM

BAPAM is a charity providing a range of health care services for all performers (70% of whom are musicians), including training and research. Its core function is a clinical assessment service and many MU members have benefitted from this over the years. The organisation has 160 clinicians who have been approved by the BAPAM committee, because they have experience of treating performing artists and have an understanding of the unique context in which musicians work.

Specialist healthcare services

“When a musician has a complication that relates to their occupation, we will give them advice on the best way to go and offer them a free clinical assessment here,” says Claire.

“So they can get the right advice for what they need in order to get them back performing as quickly as possible. What we try and do is put together the best care pathway for people, something that their GP can’t always do because they’re not dealing with musicians every day of the week. We can then provide a letter for their GP explaining why it’s best for them to take that route through the NHS. So we try and keep the patients’ healthcare team in the NHS as informed as we can about what we’ve suggested.”

Treating mental and physical illness in musicians

MU members who have been referred to BAPAM fall into four main categories. Musco-skeletal complaints make up the majority of their work (around 60%). “Often, they’ve had MRIs through the health service,” says Claire. “Nobody’s been able to find a particular reason for the injury so it requires detective work by the clinician. They often have to take a forensic approach to get the right solution.”

Psychosocial problems, such as performers’ anxiety, stress and PTSD, comes next alongside vocal health, followed by hearing health. “We bring together clinicians and other organisations to examine evidence for best practice,” says Claire. “For example, we’ve set up an audiology group and we have GPs and audiologists talking about the most recent evidence and what’s the best care pathway.”

Prevention is key to keeping musicians fit and healthy

Working alongside the MU and charities such as Help Musicians UK, the organisation aims, says Claire, to create connections between disparate bodies to achieve best practice, whether this is via their training programmes within the MU, research with academics such as University College London or with clinicians working within the NHS. The aim, always, is to keep musicians fit and healthy while also playing to the best of their ability.

For more information on BAPAM and the services it offers, visit the website at bapam.org.uk, email info@bapam.org.uk or phone the charity on 020 8167 4775.