Self-help books will now be available on prescription in England thanks to an innovative new scheme.
Bringing together care and support minister Norman Lamb and culture, communication and creative industries minister Ed Vaizey, Reading Well Books on Prescription hopes to utilise libraries as centres of knowledge by lending books to those with mild to moderate mental illness.
The self-help books, based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) have been selected by members of the Royal College of Psychiatry (RCP) and range in topic from depression to eating disorders.
The Reading Agency, a books charity who arranged the event, along with the Society of Chief Librarians, believe the programme could cut the number of mental-illness related prescriptions, as well as reduce referrals to secondary care.
National Institute for Health and Care (NICE) guidance already suggests using CBT, and Reading Well hope that linking with librarians will make it easier for GPs to follow.
Norman Lamb said: “This scheme could be immensely valuable and it’s based on evidence. We know that cognitive behavioural therapy through self-help books works, so to enable more people to benefit from that is fantastic.
“This will also let GPs know that there are other treatment options available – medication is too often the default option, and that’s in part because there haven’t been alternatives.”
Around 85% of libraries in England have already signed up for the scheme, which was initially developed in Wales by a small group of GPs.
Clinical psychologist Professor Neil Frude was one of the pioneers of the scheme.
He said: “It is truly wonderful to see what began as a local scheme develop into a major additional resource for the many thousands of people who want to take care of their own emotional well-being but need to learn the psychological skills that will enable them to achieve this type of self-care.
“There is huge potential for self-help for such problems as anxiety and depression and this scheme will help people to realise that potential through the use of high quality books.”
And Dr James Kingsland, president of the National Association of Primary Care (NACP) is one of the first GPs in England to trial the scheme.
He said: “Our library is 200 yards down the road, and while I often go there we’ve never had a connection.
“The idea of linking with a library service to improve self-care is really innovative. The health service will flourish by establishing new connections with public health and I’m pleased to be part of this project.”
Ed Vaizey, culture minister said: “We need to spread the message that this is a service which could make real changes to people’s lives. It is being supported by the government through the Arts Council.
“I want to welcome the health library partnership because I think it’s one factor that will help to get across how important libraries are, and the range of different offer that libraries are able to make."