News for release: 00:01am Monday 18th May 2015: Figures released from English public libraries, announced today for Dementia Awareness Week, show the importance of book-based support for people affected by dementia – a need which is being met by public libraries. Since the launch of Reading Well Books on Prescription for dementia in January 2015, national loans of the books in the scheme have nearly trebled.

English libraries have seen a 286% increase in national library loans of titles from the recommended reading list of 25 books. In Newcastle a Reading Well Books on Prescription for dementia title held the top spot for loans of non-fiction titles in March, with 5 other titles making the top 20 list. The public library scheme is delivered through a partnership between The Reading Agency and the Society of Chief Librarians with funding from Arts Council England. It provides a list of 25 titles, recommended by health professionals as well as people with lived experience, and is designed to offer information and advice about dementia, support with living well after diagnosis, practical advice for carers and suggestions for shared therapeutic activities. The list includes non-fiction, a picture book, personal stories and the novel Still Alice by Lisa Genova, recently made into an award-winning film starring Julianne Moore.

Reading Well Books on Prescription for dementia forms part of a national library strategy to help meet the enormous need for quality-assured support for dementia care in the UK and build dementia-friendly communities. Research shows that dementia presents a key national health challenge with a profound social, personal and economic impact on the estimated 850, 000 people in the UK living with the condition, as well as their carers and families. The scheme is also designed to help people without a formal diagnosis who may be worrying about symptoms and wanting to find out more.

Throughout Dementia Awareness Week, 18th-24th May 2015, libraries across England are hosting author events including Dr Alex Bailey, author of Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias: Answers at Your Fingertips, at St John’s Wood Library, Westminster and Dear Dementia author Ian Donaghy at York Explore, – helping to raise awareness of the important role that recommended reading can play in supporting people with dementia and their carers. Also marking Dementia Awareness Week is the official opening of a specialist dementia friendly library in Wakefield, West Yorkshire on 20th May, where the books from the Reading Well Books on Prescription for dementia scheme will be made available in this dementia-aware community space.

Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Society, says: “It is very encouraging to hear that the scheme has been so effective in its first few months and that public libraries are proving an important new tool in helping to deliver much needed health services for people with dementia in their community. We are delighted to be a partner in incredibly innovative scheme working together with libraries and The Reading Agency to raise awareness of the condition, as well as offering much needed practical help and advice for people with dementia and their carers. I hope it goes from strength to strength.”

Cllr Les Shaw, Wakefield Council Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Sport said: “Our specialist dementia friendly library opened in March, and in this short time we’ve had many positive comments about the redesign. I’m also particularly pleased we have successfully incorporated all the Alzheimer’s Society recommendations around the use of colour, the furniture, the signage, the lack of reflective surfaces and even the room specially designed for reminiscence, which makes it a very welcoming place for people affected by dementia.”

Keith Oliver, a former head teacher diagnosed with dementia in 2010, helped with the development of the core book list. He says: “In my first two years after diagnosis I had a great drive to read as much as I could by way of factual manuals, first hand experiences and fiction relating to dementia in order to better understand what was happening to me, and to reduce the fear and confusion I, as someone experiencing this disease in my mid 50s was experiencing. I totally commend this scheme for helping those who are sharing this journey with me either as people living with dementia, as carers or as professionals either in library services or the health/voluntary sector.”

Improving dementia services and quality of care is a key priority of the Department of Health’s Dementia Challenge and with the new scheme health professionals are able to recommend helpful reading to support people with dementia and their carers. People can also self-refer using the booklist to borrow titles for free from their local library. At a national cost average of £1 per person, Reading Well Books on Prescription is a cost-effective way of delivering community-based dementia care and support.

Dr Charles Alessi, Public Health England Dementia Lead, says: “Library health interventions such as Reading Well Books on Prescription will add significant value to existing dementia care as a useful support for health professionals and the general public. A dementia diagnosis without adequate and timely support for patients and carers can be a traumatic and disorientating experience leaving people feeling lonely and excluded from their community. Libraries and schemes such as Reading Well have a key role to play in providing help in a supportive and non-stigmatised community space.”

Debbie Hicks, The Reading Agency, says: “We’re really excited by the early success of Reading Well Books on prescription for dementia. It clearly illustrates the important role that public libraries can play in raising dementia awareness, supporting people to live well with the condition and promoting dementia friendly communities. We’re looking forward to future developments of the programme”

Brian Ashley, Director for Libraries, Arts Council England, says: “We’re really pleased to hear about the positive impact that the Reading Well Books on Prescription initiative is already having.  It highlights the significant role that libraries can play in people’s health and well-being and we are looking forward to hearing about further developments to the programme.”
Ciara Eastell, Society of Chief Librarians, says: “Public libraries offer free space, resources and information for everyone. Early help and prevention are key priorities for local authorities and health services and this is a brilliant example of the power of libraries to support the delivery of key policy priorities. Library staff across the country work incredibly hard to be sensitive and aware with the advice they give customers and SCL welcomes the success of this scheme as a result.”

Reading Well Books on Prescription for dementia is supported by Alzheimer’s Society, British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies, British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, The British Psychological Society, Carers UK, Dementia UK, Innovations in Dementia, National Association of Primary Care, NHS England (IAPT), Royal College of General Practitioners, Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of Psychiatrists.


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Notes to editors

Reading Well Books on Prescription for Dementia events taking place around England to celebrate Dementia Awareness Week:
Research shows that 835,000 people in the UK have dementia. This includes 700,000 people in England. Dementia 2014: Opportunity for Change, Alzheimer’s Society
The core book list for Reading Well Books on Prescription for dementia can be found at The book selection protocol supporting the development of the core list is available at
As well as dementia, the conditions covered by Reading Well Books on Prescription for common mental health conditions include : anger, anxiety, binge eating, chronic pain, depression, health anxiety, obsessions and compulsions, panic, phobias, relationship problems, self-esteem, sleep problems, social phobias, stress and worry.
An evaluation report of the first year of the scheme can be found at
Case studies of people who have participated in the Reading Well Books on Prescription scheme can be found on
Guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) (CH42) recommend dementia care should increase knowledge, provide practical advice and support following diagnosis and with early memory loss, support for carers and encourage people to remain active and engaged. For more details about the evidence base for the scheme go to
Books on Prescription was developed in Wales by Professor Neil Frude where there has been a national scheme since 2005. Reading Well Books on Prescription is the first national scheme for England.
Reading Well Books on Prescription is delivered by The Reading Agency in partnership with the Society of Chief Librarians with funding from Arts Council England.
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.
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.
Arts Council England champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to digital art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2010 and 2015, we will invest £1.9 billion of public money from government and an estimated £1.1 billion from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country.