Doctor 2Figures 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 January/February, 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 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.”