Prescribing a new list

Ella Rhodes reports; plus an update.

A new booklist for common mental health conditions is to be launched nationally by the Reading Well Books on Prescription programme on Tuesday 5 June at the Wellcome Institute in London and at a series of regional launches in libraries and health centres.

The first Reading Well booklist supporting common mental health conditions was produced in 2013 and has been hailed a great success with libraries and health professionals across the country. It is being updated this year ‘to ensure that library mental health and wellbeing collections continue to contain the most quality-assured, evidence-based health information possible’.

The Reading Well programme is delivered by the Reading Agency in partnership with the Society of Chief Librarians and is endorsed by the British Psychological Society among others. Its aim is to helps people understand and manage their health and wellbeing using self-help reading. Three more Reading Well booklists are currently available, on dementia, for long-term conditions, and for young people.

Find out more, including about supporting and materials how to order, at

We hear more about the scheme from Elaine Iljon Foreman, British Psychological Society Representative to the Project; Debbie Hicks, Creative Director, The Reading Agency; and Annie Robinson, Programme Manager, Reading and Health at The Reading Agency.

The Books on Prescription scheme was started in Wales in 2003 by Professor Neil Frude, a clinical psychologist. In its first year, the National Books on Prescription Reading Well scheme (2012/2013) used a book selection protocol focused on existing best practice and expert advice. The aim was to facilitate the transition from localised delivery to a National standardised shared approach. Uptake was improved. It built on existing knowledge, delivery models and book stock in libraries, while local commissioning and funding models were developed to take the project forward.

Partners now involved in funding are the Wellcome Institute, National Libraries, the Arts Council and Public Health England. In addition to the Adult list there are core lists for different areas and new ones are being developed. There are currently lists for Mental Health, Dementia, Young People’s Mental Health, and Long Term Conditions.

For the renamed Mental Health list, the Book Selection protocol was revised to encompass wider stakeholder engagement, to include service users, and to consider newer as well as established titles. The book selection protocol is reviewed on an annual basis and for each new programme within the scheme.

The book list provides a compilation of information, advice, book-based self-help and inspirational personal stories. In choosing these titles, the process was quality assured by Experts by profession and experience. One of the aims is to add value to health sector provision. This is very important, given that 1:4 in UK has mental health issues. A key factor for uptake is that the books are held across all English public libraries, ensuring they are easily accessible in safe trusted spaces, within local communities. GPs and professionals can recommend the titles, and they are also available on the open shelves for self-selection.

To date over 750,000 people have borrowed books from the 2013 list. Of those surveyed in 2016, 90 per cent said the books were helpful, while 68 per cent reported symptom improvement.

To create the revised list, a rigorous book selection process was devised, shaped by need, evidence and Clinical guidance. Membership of the Book Selection Panel comprised representatives from the British Psychological Society, MIND, BABCP, the Royal Colleges of GPs, Nursing and Psychiatry. It also included Public Health England, NHS IAPT, Health Education England, Self Management UK and The Coalition for Collaborative Care. In addition certain organisations were involved via email circulation of proceedings and their contribution taken into account. Where possible, the review stressed the alignment between the list and contemporary NICE clinical guidelines. Evidence is published at:

All books are required to:

-       Comply with the evidence based approach agreed for the list 

-       Draw on existing best-practice local and national delivery models 

-       Have been recommended by health professionals as part of the consultation process as a useful, appropriate and accessible resource for people managing these conditions 

-       Have been recommended/endorsed by service users/patients 

-       Be in print and remain so for the three year duration of the list 

-       Where possible, be available in other formats  

-       Be relevant where possible to people with the targeted condition and family/non-professional carers 

-       Cater for a range of literacy levels, and reading abilities

-       Be written either by experts by profession or with lived experience 

Material aimed at a professional clinical audience, i.e. clinical textbooks and manuals, is not considered for core lists although they may be included on a separate professionals’ list.   

Areas covered by the Mental Health List 2018 are:

1. Therapies and Approaches, which include a Variety of Mental Health Problems.

2. Common Feelings and Experiences.

3. Self Help Books to Support Mental Health when working with a therapist.

4. Other Common Conditions.

5. Personal Stories

Full details are available through the Reading Agency resources website. To access the individual book selection protocols for previous schemes e-mail [email protected].

To the future

The Reading Agency is tasked with rolling out and further development of the Scheme. They aim ‘To tackle life’s big challenges, because we know everything changes when we read’. 

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