News Roundup [abridged Versions Appear In The Paper Journal]

GPs prescribe self help books for mental health problems

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: (Published 12 June 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:1285
  1. Roger Dobson
  1. Abergavenny

    Patients are being prescribed “do it yourself” health books from the local public library in what's believed to be the first project of its kind in the United Kingdom.

    Patients with mild to moderate forms of a range of mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, stress, social phobia, and eating disorders, are being offered the option of a prescription for a specially chosen self help book from a local library in Cardiff.

    A key element of the scheme is that the books have been selected as the best available in their subjects. The citywide project, which has been developed in partnership with the library service, uses an approved collection of 30 books. All the books are available in each branch of the library, so that any GP in the city can prescribe the relevant book.

    Each book contains a programme for the reader to follow, and the GP writes on the prescription how long the course of treatment should last.

    “We write a prescription, which they take along to the library, and when they hand it over they get the book. We put on the prescription how long the patient is allowed to keep the book,” said Cardiff GP Jacqueline Gantley. She said that so far anxiety and social phobia have been the commonest reasons for a prescription.

    “All the books we are able to supply are self help manuals that the patient works through. Each of the books has been evaluated by people in the field as the most effective—and the least harmful—and that is a big advantage to us. I've prescribed the books to a number of patients, and they're very happy with the scheme,” said Dr Gantley.

    Counsellors and nurses attached to GP practices are also involved in the project, which is expected to be evaluated after its first 12 months.