Self-help book prescriptions for mental health problems
4th February 2013 - GPs will be able to prescribe self-help books to patients in England with some mental health problems.
The Reading Agency, which has helped develop the scheme, says it wants to bring reading's healing benefits to the six million people with anxiety and depression.
The scheme is expected to be launched in May in partnership with the Society of Chief Librarians. It will mean that GPs and mental health professionals will be able to prescribe cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) through a visit to a library.
Patients will be able to access 30 books endorsed by health partners. Debbie Hicks, director of research at The Reading Agency, tells BootsWebMD: "As a first step early intervention strategy, the doctor can recommend self-help reading from the list to the patient. They can then take their book recommendation ... to their local library where the books will be available."
Patients will also be able to take part in a separate scheme at the library run by the Agency to join reading groups to help with their recovery and read 'mood boosting books' including novels and poetry.
A similar scheme is already run in Wales by the Cardiff-based clinical psychologist Professor Neil Frude, and several local initiatives have been established in England.
The Agency says Books on Prescription will work within guidelines set out by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and is backed by the Royal Colleges of GPs, Nursing and Psychiatry, as well as the Department of Health.
Research published earlier this year in the open access journal PlosOne found that guided self-help books were substantially more effective at treating a group of patients in Glasgow than those who received normal care.
The cost of mental health in England is estimated to be £14 billion a year while also substantially increasing the cost of treating physical illnesses.
Dr Paul Blenkiron, a consultant psychiatrist in York, tells us: "This announcement is timely, given the rising demand for better mental health care against the tough economic times and cost savings that people are facing. I am sure GPs and other health professionals will value the Reading Well Books on Prescription Scheme. Cognitive behaviour therapy can be a highly effective talking treatment for people with common mental health problems."
He adds: " CBT based self-help books will be a real boost to the treatments currently available."
Beth Murphy, head of information at the mental health charity Mind says in a statement: "Mind welcomes the news that local authorities are supporting the prescribing of self-help books for people affected by mental health problems. It is vital that people have choice regarding their treatment and we have to remember that what works for one person might not work for another, so we will always encourage health professionals to offer a range of options, including talking therapies, for example."