GPs offer dementia patients books on prescription

GPs are being encouraged to prescribe books to patients with early-stage dementia, as an extension of a scheme in place for those with mental health problems.

Library: GPs prescribing books to help dementia patients
Library: GPs prescribing books to help dementia patients

A charity-led scheme has put together a list of 25 books that provide information about dementia, advice on living with the condition and personal stories. The books are available in most public libraries in England.

Books about dementia will help patients plan ahead and let them know what to expect as their condition develops, according to experts behind the Reading Well initiative - led by charity the Reading Agency.

Dr Liz England, a GP in Birmingham, provided input on behalf of the RCGP to help to plan and implement the scheme.

‘My colleagues often feel there’s not enough support available to patients after a dementia diagnosis,’ she told GP. ‘People are being diagnosed earlier, so this scheme will give them information, advice and support in the early stages that they can access easily.’

Planning ahead

This means patients will be well-equipped to sort out finances, consider advanced directives, and discuss their wishes with family, Dr England said.

‘In a consultation it can be difficult to approach this subject. You’ve only got 10 minutes, which is a very short time in which to provide support to someone who’s just been given a diagnosis.’

The dementia initiative is an extension of a project launched in June 2013 that prescribed books to people with mental health problems such as depression, phobias and eating disorders.

Around 7,000 GPs and therapists have prescribed books so far, according to the Reading Agency.

Dr England talks patients through the ways they can use the approaches in the book to help themselves. Patients have been ‘very keen’ to join the scheme although books are not yet available in other languages or to people with a learning disability, she said.

Norman Lamb, minister of state for care and support, said: ‘This is a fantastic project which has already helped thousands of people with mental health conditions and I hope the new dementia scheme will be just as successful in giving people and their families access to valuable information and support.’

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