Books on prescription scheme

The healing power of books

Reading Well – Books on Prescription is a scheme launched in 2013 to help people with mild to moderate mental health problems relax more and reduce their stress levels. It has the full support of the Department of Health, Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Royal College of General Practitioners.

Research (carried out by the University of Sussex) has shown that reading for as little as six minutes a day can reduce stress levels by 68%, slowing down your heart rate and easing tension in your muscles – more so than listening to music, having a cup of tea or going for a walk.

The Books on Prescription collection of 30 titles, selected by experienced health practitioners, is available in 45 of Kent’s Libraries.

The scheme is free to use and covers issues such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Phobias
  • Eating disorders
  • Bereavement
  • Confidence building
  • Managing trauma

GPs and other health professionals can prescribe the books from the list and give the patient a referral form. This can then be taken to their local library to pick up the most suitable book for the problems they are experiencing.

The scheme is designed to help bridge gaps where there are waiting lists for access to talking therapies, as part of the treatment, but not as a replacement. It can help patients have more understanding of what they are going through, what their condition is, what their symptoms are, and what their treatment could be.

It’s not only self-help books available. There are also mind-boosting books chosen by reading groups – the creative strand of the Reading Well programme. Some are well known titles and some less so, but all are highly recommended to help people feel better about their own lives.


Some of the titles are offered as e-books that people can download and read electronically on an e-reader. 

Books can be reserved online using online catalogues and there are a number of self-service machines in town centre libraries, so you can pick up books or return them without delay.

For those who cannot access library buildings very easily there is the ‘open access’ library service for residential homes, nursing homes, sheltered housing, day centres and hospitals.

There is a home library service whereby volunteers will go to people’s homes if they can’t come to the library, and deliver material they’ve requested. Carers can also make use of that scheme if they’re looking after somebody and their access to libraries is restricted.

The Reading Well – Books on Prescription scheme is open to everyone including people who work within mental health, carers, and GPs.