BOOKS: Excel for Clinical Governance By Alan Gillies Radcliffe Medical Press 256 pages £27. 50

When confronted with yet another book on clinical governance - or Windows Excel - the doctor on the Clapham omnibus might be forgiven for throwing his hands up in the air and begging for mercy. It was with misgiving that I tentatively glimpsed into this book.

I was struck by the CD inside the front cover. First challenge was opening the sleeve - impossible, until I found the flap was merely tucked in the top.

The first 70 or so pages are a treat. Advising how to plug in the computer it does not do, but there is no excuse for not understanding the basic use and functioning of Excel if these chapters are followed.

Having reasonable experience of Excel, I was now becoming a bit cocky. I strode through the next few dozens of pages before getting out of my depth. I retraced my steps.

Now it all seemed logical again.

Within the text are examples of clinical governance problems and data collection and analysis exercises - attendance at well-woman clinics, child health surveillance, outpatient attendance, weighing the evidence, risk management and, most interesting, comparing performance with national figures obtained from the net.

There are simple instructions on statistical treatment of results, and using formulae in Excel never seemed easier.

I have not completed all the exercises but intend to. I have learned a great deal in a logical and easily assimilated way.

This is helped by the slow and pleasant instruction of Professor Gillies' voice, which guides you through basic tutorials on the screen using the enclosed CD. His voice fits his photo - a kindly looking teacher who will not embarrass you when you protest 'But, please, sir, I do not understand. '

Add to this the automatic links from the CD to useful Internet sites and appendices which instruct you in a stepby-step way on how to download data from EMIS and Meditel System 6000 primary care clinical computer systems straight into spreadsheets, and the HImP's the limit! But do not think this is only aimed at primary care. Secondary care clinical governance officers will have a great deal to learn.

My only disappointment - the automatic link to Professor Gillies'website, rather like my February hotel in Lanzarote - revealed the site to be under reconstruction until after Easter.

I already like the man and love the book. If you have only one book on Excel, get this. And as for the doctor on the Clapham omnibus - be prepared for an exhilarating ride. Hold very tight, please - ding, ding!