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Reading Well scheme to launch in public libraries for people with long-term conditions

The scheme is part of the Society of Chief Librarians’ Public Library Health Offer and has been developed with leading health organisations and people with lived experience and their carers. It will be available in English public libraries from July 2017.

As part of its successful Reading Well Books on Prescription scheme, The Reading Agency and Society of Chief Librarians are launching Reading Well for long term conditions. The scheme is part of the Society of Chief Librarian’s Public Library Health Offer and has been developed with leading health organisations and people with lived experience and their carers.


It will be available in English public libraries from July 2017.


Reading Well Books on Prescription

Reading Well provides accredited and helpful reading to support health and wellbeing. It is delivered by The Reading Agency working in partnership with the Society of Chief Librarians with funding from Arts Council England and the Wellcome Trust. The scheme is endorsed by leading health partners and delivered in public libraries.


Reading Well Books on Prescription for adult common mental health conditions was launched in June 2013 as the first national scheme for England. A second scheme for people with dementia and their carers was launched in January 2015, followed by Reading Well for young people in 2016. The Reading Well programme is available in 97% of English public library authorities.


Since its launch, the scheme has reached 635,000 people. It has been endorsed by the public as well as by GPs, mental health professionals and government ministers as a helpful community-based health service. It has also delivered significant patient benefit. In a recent survey 96% of those who have borrowed a book from the mental health list said it has been helpful, while 90% said that the scheme helped them to better understand and manage their condition. You can read the full evaluation from 2015-2016 here.


Reading Well for long term conditions

The need

There is enormous need for quality assured health information and advice supporting people to understand and manage the physical and mental symptoms of living with a long term condition. A recent set of statistics produced by NHS England reports the following:i

  •  26 million people in England have at least one long term condition

  •  10 million people have two or more long term conditions

  •  Only 59% of people living with long term conditions are in work, compared with 72% of the

    general population

  •  Long term conditions account for 50% of all GP appointments, 64% of all hospital outpatients appointments and 70% of all hospital bed days 

  • They also account for 70% of health and care spend

  •  Only 64% of people living with long term conditions say they feel supported

  •  On average people living with long term conditions spend just four hours a year with a health

    professional and 8,756 hours self-managing

  •  80% of carers report that caring for someone living with a long term condition has had a negative impact on their health. In addition, £1 billion in carer’s allowance is unclaimed each yearii

  • Reading Well is a cost effective way of delivering community-based help and support for people living with long term conditions. The national cost average of the scheme works out at around £1 per person.



The booklist of 28 titles provides adults living with long term conditions with advice, information and support including self-help, psycho-education and memoir. The list will cover:

Common symptoms associated with living with a long term condition including:

  •  Pain

  •  Fatigue

  •  Sleeping problems

  •  Mental health and wellbeing Condition-specific titles on:

  •  Arthritis

  •  Bowel conditions (including Inflammatory bowel disease and Irritable bowel syndrome)

  •  Breathing difficulties (including Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and asthma)

  •  Diabetes

  •  Heart disease (including coronary heart disease, angina, heart attack)

  •  Stroke

    The booklist also features a number of titles that cover:

  •  General information and advice on living well with a long term condition

  •  Support for family and carers


How it works

Health professionals offering support to people with long term conditions can use the scheme to recommend helpful reading. The scheme can also be used on a self-referral basis. The books will be available on the open shelves of the local public library for anyone to borrow from public libraries.


Evidence-based practice

Reading Well follows clinical guidelines for the treatment and support of long term conditions. Specific self- help interventions are included when recommended within NICE guidelines. For further information, please see the Evidence and Policy Review which formed the basis of our preliminary consultation.

The books were selected by health professionals following a rigorous and evidence-based approach. The scheme has been co-produced with people with lived experience.


National partnerships

Reading Well is supported by British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies, The British Psychological Society, Mental Health Foundation, Mind, National Association of Primary Care, NHS England, Public Health England, Health Education England, the Royal College of General Practitioners, Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

We also worked with the following specialist organisations on the development of the long term conditions scheme; British Heart Foundation, British Lung Foundation, the Coalition for Collaborative Care, Carers Trust, Carers UK, Diabetes UK, Health Education England, IBS Network, Self- Management UK, and the Stroke Association.



The Reading Well for long term conditions titles will be available from all English library authorities subscribing to the scheme. Leaflets containing the booklist, which can be used by health professionals to recommend titles, are also available from local library services.


Why are public libraries important for supporting people with long term conditions?

Research shows that people see their library as a safe, trusted and non-stigmatised place to go for health information. As well as accredited health information and support, they offer other wellbeing services including social and recreational activities and volunteering opportunities.


About The Reading Agency

The Reading Agency is a leading independent charity whose pioneering work brings the joy of reading to the widest possible audiences across the UK, in partnership with the public library service. The charity’s mission is to create and deliver innovative reading opportunities that inspire more people to read more, encourage them to share their enjoyment of reading with others and celebrate the difference that reading makes to all our lives. The Reading Agency is funded by the Arts Council.

Visit www.readingagency.org.uk.


The Society of Chief Librarians (SCL) is a local government association made up of the chief librarian of each library authority in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. SCL takes a leading role in the development of public libraries, through sharing best practices, advocating for continuous improvement on behalf of local people, and leading the debate on the future of the public library service. Visit www.goscl.com.



For more information about the scheme, email readingwell@readingagency.org.uk

or visit the Reading Well website 


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Posted on 30 June 2017

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