Growing number of books being prescribed to ‘boost wellbeing’

In recent years there has been a rise in social prescribing with people being directed towards activities and social groups

Growing number of books being prescribed to ‘boost wellbeing’ iStock

A growing number of Perth and Kinross residents are being prescribed books to read.

In recent years there has been a rise in social prescribing with people being directed towards activities and social groups.

But the region has been quietly leading the way in Tayside in another alternative prescription service.

At a recent scrutiny committee meeting, Culture Perth and Kinross chief executive Helen Smout briefly touched on books being issued on prescription.

She told councillors: “Research has shown that reading for just six minutes a day can reduce stress levels by 68%.”

In Perth and Kinross books are being used as an alternative to or alongside medication and therapy services.

According to Culture Perth and Kinross, its Healthy Minds Book Prescription has been running since 1999.

Perth and Kinross is currently the only one of NHS Tayside’s three local authorities to run the programme.

So far, in 2021 Culture Perth and Kinross has issued 148 books as part of the service – an increase from the previous two years.

In 2020, 88 books were issued and in 2019, 137 books were issued on prescription.

Aberfeldy and Kinloch Rannoch GP David Ashcroft is one of many Perth and Kinross health professionals who has prescribed books to patients.

He said: “It was all established in the dim and distant past and is there for GPs, nurses and other health professionals to use.”

While the majority of books prescribed are to help with the likes of anxiety, depression and chronic pain, it is not unknown for someone to be prescribed an uplifting novel to read.

Dr Ashcroft said: “There are some novels – feel-good stories – that people get signposted to.”

Classics such as To Kill a Mockingbirdand Little Womenare among the feel-good recommendations.

And the partnership between local health professionals and Culture Perth and Kinross Libraries appears to be working well.

He said: “Libraries are a fantastic resource. These books are often quite expensive – it’s great to have something you can just borrow.”

Dr Ashcroft said the Books on Prescription service also ties in with Aberfeldy’s bid to be Scotland’s healthiest town.

The Healthiest Town initiative is encouraging the community to work together to eat healthily, move around and connect with other people.

The GP said: “It’s empowering people to look after themselves.”

Culture Perth and Kinross has worked with NHS Tayside and other local organisations to provide a range of self-help books covering topics such as anxiety, chronic pain, depression, anger and stress.

The books are free to borrow and you do not need to be a member of the library to use them. A book prescription will give you a temporary membership.

By local democracy reporter Kathryn Anderson