No need for ‘Dr Google’: Library scheme gets Brits reading their way to better health

• The Reading Agency and Society of Chief Librarians launch new strand of successful Reading Well Books on Prescription programme
• New scheme focuses on supporting 26 million people in England coping daily with long term health conditions
• Scheme is supported by Public Health England, the Royal College of General Practitioners and the National Association of Primary Care as well as other key partners
• Long term conditions account for 50% of GP appointments and 70% of hospital bed days

The Reading Agency, the national charity inspiring people to read for pleasure and wellbeing, and The Society of Chief Librarians have launched a new strand of the acclaimed Reading Well Books on Prescription programme into English libraries. The new scheme focuses on supporting those living with long term conditions such as arthritis, bowel conditions, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Available from English public libraries from July 2017, the scheme aims to provide millions of patients, carers and the general public with the tools to better understand and confidently self-manage their conditions.

The new 28 title book list of health information, self-help and memoir has been developed by the charity and expert partners to offer guidance and factual support to those living with illness and their carers. Research shows that people see their library as a safe, trusted and non-stigmatised place to go for health information. Between the pages of the recommended books, people living with long term conditions can find answers to some of the questions that may be on their minds – from dealing with pain, fatigue and sleeping problems, to relationships and mental health and wellbeing.

An accredited medical alternative

A recent survey revealed that people are almost as likely to use search engines to access health advice as they are to visit their GP. With a huge amount of misinformation on the internet, Reading Well provides an alternative trusted source of information and advice that people can feel confident accessing.

Created with the support of a number of leading health organisations and those with lived-experience of the conditions featured, the booklist offers an accredited medical alternative to the infamous Dr Google.

Health professionals such as GPs can recommend books to patients they are treating with long term conditions or people can self refer using the recommended book lists. All the books are available in English public libraries.

The Reading Well for long term conditions book list was created as part of Society of Chief Librarians’ Public Library Heath Offer, with funding from Arts Council England and Wellcome.

Professor Martin Marshall, Vice Chair of External Affairs at the Royal College of GPs, says:

“There is an enormous need for quality assured health information and advice supporting people to understand and manage the physical and wellbeing impact of living with a long term condition. The Reading Well scheme gives those living with long term conditions a trustworthy and approved source to find this information. It enables patients to feel better equipped and more confident in managing their illness, giving them confidence and helping them feel they have more control over their condition.”

Sue Wilkinson MBE, CEO of The Reading Agency says:

“We have seen great success and had very positive feedback on our previous booklists for Reading Well Books on Prescription, so we are proud to launch the latest scheme in the programme, which provides a cost-effective and quality assured way for delivering community based help for those living with long term conditions.

“We recognise it’s incredibly tough to manage a long term condition. This booklist enables patients to find information and answers to their questions in their local community, in the safe, trusted space of their local library.”

Neil MacInnes, President of the Society of Chief Librarians says:

“The new Reading Well for long term conditions scheme is quality assured and evidence based and will be available through the public library network across the country, providing a new frontline community service in an area of enormous need. We are delighted to be working with The Reading Agency and health partners to deliver this important new scheme at public libraries.”

Sir Nicolas Serota, Chair of Arts Council England, says:

“At the Arts Council, we’ve long-believed in the transformative powers of arts and culture for people’s health – and libraries play a large part in this. The new Reading Well scheme has the potential to make a real difference to the lives of people living with long term conditions such as diabetes, stroke and heart
disease and so I’m delighted that we have been able to invest in it.”

Simon Chaplin, Director of Culture & Society, Wellcome, says:

“Public libraries are amazing places, with a vital role to play creating healthier communities. By bringing together the role of public libraries as trusted providers with expertise from across the health sector Books on Prescription has the potential to improve people’s lives, and Wellcome is proud to be a partner in the scheme.”

Reading Well Books on Prescription is available in 97% of English public library authorities. Previous schemes have reached over 635,000 people with targeted mental health support for both adults and young people, as well as a book list for people with dementia and their carers.

The booklist

The core booklist for Reading Well for long term conditions is as follows:


Reading Agency-85-LowRes.jpg1. How to Feel Better: Practical Ways to Recover Well from Illness and Injury by Frances Goodhart and Lucy Atkins (2015)
2. Self-Management of Long-Term Health Conditions by Kate Lorig (ed.) (2014)

Common symptoms


3. Fighting Fatigue: A Practical Guide to Managing the Symptoms of CFS/ME by Sue Pemberton and Catherine Berry
4. Overcoming Chronic Fatigue by Mary Burgess and Trudie Chalder


5. Manage Your Pain by Michael Nicholas, Allan Molloy, Lee Beeston and Lois Tonkin
6. Overcoming Chronic Pain by Frances Cole, Helen Macdonald, Catherine Carus and Hazel Howden-Leach
7. Pain is Really Strange by Steve Haines and Sophie Standing

Sleep problems

8. An Introduction to Coping with Insomnia and Sleep Problems by Colin Espie

Mental health and wellbeing

9. Coping with the Psychological Effects of Illness: Strategies to Manage Anxiety and Depression by Fran Smith, Robert Bor and Karina Eriksen
10. Mindfulness for Health: A Practical Guide to Relieving Pain, Reducing Stress and Restoring Wellbeing by Vidyamala Burch and Danny Penman

Selected long term conditions

Reading Agency-104-LowRes.jpg


11. Arthritis: A Practical Guide to Getting On With Your Life by Chris Jenner
12. Arthritis: Exercise Your Way to Health by Paula Coates

Bowel conditions

13. Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Answers at Your Fingertips by Udi Shmueli
14. Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Navigating Your Way to Recovery by Megan Arroll and Christine Dancey
15. Go Your Crohn Way: A Gutsy Guide to Living with Crohn’s Disease by Kathleen Nicolls

Breathing difficulties

16. Asthma: Answers at Your Fingertips by Mark Levy, Monica Fletcher and Soren Pederson
17. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): the Facts by Graeme P. Currie


18. Diabetes for Dummies by Alan L. Rubin
19. Diabetes: The Facts by David Matthews, Niki Meston, Pam Dyson, Jenny Shaw, Laurie King and Aparna Pal
20. Type 2 Diabetes in Adults of All Ages by Charles Fox and Anne Kilvert

Heart disease

21. Heart Attack Survival Guide by Mark Greener
22. Living with Angina by Tom Smith
23. Understanding and Dealing with Heart Disease by Keith Souter


24. Stroke: the Facts by Richard Lindley
25. Rebuilding Your Life After Stroke by Reg Morris, Malin Falck, Tamsin Miles, Julie Wilcox, Sam Fisher-Hicks
26. How I Rescued My Brain: A Psychologist’s Remarkable Recovery from Stroke and Trauma by David Roland

Support for relatives and carers

27. The Carer’s Handbook: Essential Information and Support for All Those in a Caring Role by Jane Matthews
28. The Selfish Pig’s Guide to Caring: How to Cope With the Emotional and Practical Aspects of Caring for Someone by Hugh Marriot

Get involved

Find out more about the scheme on the Reading Well website

The Reading Agency

Join our mailing list

Get our newsletters to stay up to date with programme news, resources, news and more.

Back to Top