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Five reasons why primary care and libraries are a powerful combination


We’re used to hearing GPs talk about how many of their patients – around one in five  – come to see them for non-medical reasons:  loneliness, confidence issues, housing worries and debt.

They may be ‘non-medical’, but they are intrinsically linked with poor physical and mental health. Tackle them, and GPs have a far better chance of preventing patients from a downward spiral into more difficult issues.

Social prescribing schemes, using activities provided by voluntary and community sector organisations, are key: research by the University of Westminster found social prescribing schemes had cut GP consultation rates by 28 per cent and A&E attendance by 24 per cent. In Libraries Week, it’s worth looking at why so many of our primary care centres have a library under the same roof .

Bibliotherapy involves general practitioners prescribing books, book clubs and reading groups to patients – an “umbrella term related to using books to help people with physical or mental health problems.”

But how can bibliotherapy help patients in primary care?

  • Reading is proven to reduce stress and help increase relaxation

Stress is believed to contribute to around 60 percent of all human illness and disease and can raise the risks of stroke and heart disease by 50 percent and 40 percent.

Reading is the best way to relax and even six minutes can be enough to reduce stress levels by more than two thirds, according to new research.

  • Reading combats mental decline and Alzheimer’s with old age

Reading can slow cognitive decline, as our brain slows down we can find cognitive tasks that we used to find easy hard. According to several studies, reading could help slow down or event prevent cognitive decline, and it may even help stave off more severe forms of cognitive impairments, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

  • Reading can improve sleep

As smartphones have become common in a bedtime routine, a study published earlier this year in the journal Social Science and Medicine found that using a smartphone just before bedtime is linked to shorter sleep duration and poorer sleep quality.

  • Reading can enhance social skills

Reading can create empathy – research shows that reading fiction puts us in the mind of another person and allows us to experience every challenge and emotion alongside our favourite characters

Our buildings at Moor Park Health Centre in Blackpool, Bewdley Medical Centre in Bewdley, and Eagle Bridge Health and Wellbeing centre in Crewe are among many primary care centres around the country helping to link GPs and their patients more closely with access to reading. After all, as the author William Nicholson wrote: “We read to know we’re not alone.” A better advert for the benefits of bibliotherapy would be hard to find.