ENO Breathe – a joint initiative between Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and English National Opera

Suzi is the Creative Director of ENO Breathe, a social prescribing intervention between English National Opera (ENO) and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust launched in September 2020. Launched in September 2020, ENO Breathe is a programme that supports people recovering from long Covid-19.


It is increasingly clear that some Covid-19 survivors continue to experience symptoms after their initial illness.  One common symptom is  breathlessness. Breathlessness can increase anxiety, and this in turn can cause patients to take shallow, panicky breaths in a self-perpetuating cycle.


ENO Breathe has lullabies at its core.  Spanning cultures and continents, lullabies stretch back further than the written word, and are rooted in love, intimacy, tenderness and caring.  Lullabies are the common thread running through all the music selected for the programme. Participants sing traditional lullabies, and alongside this listen to operatic lullaby moments filmed specially for the project – a salve of song; music to soothe; songs to sing and performances to watch, listen to and be immersed in.


Singing lullabies builds emotional connections with the other activities and exercises on the programme.  Participants leave sessions with a calming song in their heart – and crucially – this creates a positive emotional connection to tools and exercises to help manage their symptoms, making these exercises more memorable and more meaningful.


The programme is designed as a six week intervention that provides participants with exercises and techniques to use for self management.  It offers tools for use during the programme and beyond. With the pilot phase completed in November 2020, this programme will be expanded nationwide in the coming months – and a love of singing is not a prerequisite for taking part!


‘As the country recovers from the effects of COVID-19, it’s important to remember that some patients recovering from the disease are still struggling with symptoms that can cause them significant distress, even after they’ve recovered from the initial illness. As doctors, we know from experience that community and social interventions have the potential be incredibly powerful for these patients, as well as providing them with tools and mechanisms to cope with the impact of COVID-19 in the future.’

Dr Sarah Elkin, Consultant in Respiratory Medicine & Clinical Director Integrated Care at Imperial


‘The arts have a huge role to play in acting as a salve as the country recovers from COVID-19 and this project embodies the power of opera.’

Stuart Murphy, CEO of English National Opera


You can read about the launch of ENO Breathe in The Stage here, in The Times here and in The Telegraph here.  Libby Purves also mentions the project in her article for The Times – ‘a dose of opera can lift us out of the gloom’ and Julian Shea writes about ENO Breathe for China Daily here.