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Books on prescription scheme attracts 100,000 users in first three months

A scheme to give patients free access to self-care books for common mental health problems through their local library was used by 100,000 people in the first three months after its launch.

The Reading Well Books on Prescription scheme was launched last June by the charity the Reading Agency, with the support of various partners including the RCGP.

According to the charity, loans of recommended titles increased by 145% during the first three months of the scheme.

The books are based on cognitive behavioural therapy for a range of common mental health conditions including anxiety, depression, phobias and eating disorders.

They can be recommended by GPs as well as practice nurses and other health professionals, either as a stand-alone treatment or alongside other approaches such as talking therapies or medication.

The Reading Agency said as a result of the scheme’s success, Arts Council England has now agreed to fund further work on how libraries can support people with dementia.

Dr Liz England, RCGP mental health commissioning lead and a GP in Birmingham, said the scheme’s start was a ‘great achievement’ and she hoped it would be developed further.

Dr England said: ‘I think it is a great achievement for Reading Well Books on Prescription to have achieved the 100,000 mark. From a GP’s perspective, the scheme is available in our CCG and has meant I am able to offer patients a greater choice in managing and understanding their own mental health and wellbeing which is available in a non-stigmatising, accessible environment.’

‘We should be making more use of community assets like libraries and I hope there will be investment in the scheme enabling further development to include different media formats so more audio books and DVDs for example, resources available in different languages and made accessible for other groups including children and young people and older adults with mental health problems including dementia.’

She added: ‘The Reading Agency could work with CCG mental health leads and public health for example to make sure Books on Prescription is widely available.’

Health minister Norman Lamb said: ‘Mental health conditions like anxiety and depression are common and by helping people understand them, we can ensure they are better equipped to manage their own health. That’s why this scheme is so valuable as it makes this vital information available in local libraries and free of charge so everybody can access it.’

‘I am delighted to see the scheme has got off to a strong start and I look forward to seeing it used by health professionals to complement the range of options for support available.’

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