readingwellThe Reading Well Books on Prescription scheme, which helps people with common mental health conditions feel better through self-help reading, is being extended to include people with dementia and their carers from February.

The first national Books on Prescription scheme in England, launched in June 2013 as part of the Universal Health Offer for libraries, supports some 275,000 people with book-based therapy for common mental health conditions available from public libraries. In its first year, Reading Well Books on Prescription has been endorsed by the public as well as by GPs, mental health professionals and government ministers as a helpful community-based mental health service. 

Building on this, Reading Well Books on Prescription for dementia will be available in public libraries from February as part of a national library strategy to support the development of dementia-friendly communities and build understanding and awareness of the condition. 

Research shows that dementia presents a key national health challenge with a profound social, personal and economic impact on the estimated 850,000 people in the UK living with the condition, as well as their carers and families. The new scheme will also help the many people living without a formal diagnosis, who may be worrying about symptoms and wanting to find out more.

With the new scheme health professionals will be able to recommend helpful reading to support people with dementia and their carers. People can also self-refer using the booklist to borrow titles for free from their local library. At a national cost average of £1 per person, Reading Well Books on Prescription is a cost-effective way of delivering community-based dementia care and support.

The 25 titles on the Reading Well Books on Prescription for dementia list have been recommended by health experts as well as people with lived experience. The list includes books offering information and advice about dementia and normal aging, support with living well after diagnosis, practical advice for carers, personal accounts, and suggestions for shared therapeutic activities.  

Norman Lamb, Minister of State for Care and Support, said: “Dementia can be devastating and its vital people have as much information as possible so that they can live well with the condition.  

“This is a fantastic project which has already helped thousands of people with mental health conditions and I hope the new dementia scheme will be just as successful in giving people and their families access to valuable information and support.”

The scheme is delivered by charity The Reading Agency, the Society of Chief Librarians and local library services with funding from Arts Council England.  

Ciara Eastell from the Society of Chief Librarians and Debbie Hicks from The Reading Agency, said in a joint statement: “Reading Well Books on Prescription for dementia means that public libraries will play a significant role in helping to build dementia-friendly communities.  The scheme works within NICE guidelines for dementia care. It provides quality assured information and advice, support following diagnosis and with early memory loss, practical and emotional help for carers and suggested activities to help people remain active and independent for as long as possible. We are delighted to be working together with health partners to deliver this exciting development in libraries’ health offer.”