By Kevin Teasdale Blackwell Science 176 pages £14.99

The first question many would ask when approaching this subject is why, and what is the need for advocacy in the first place?

Kevin Teasdale opens the eyes of the sceptics among healthcare professionals to the fundamentals of advocacy in a manner that is stimulating and non- confrontational.

From the start the author is at pains to point out that access to advocacy is still desperately needed in healthcare.

While lamenting the necessity for advocacy throughout the book, the numerous vignettes and case studies leave the reader with a sense of: 'I've been there, and yes, it is sad that advocacy is so necessary.'

It would be wrong to infer from this that the book is merely a monologue on the necessity of advocacy.

Kevin Teasdale suggests how all advocates, whether they are health professionals or independent, can become more effective in representing the views of patients and clients, while at the same time reducing the worst of the risks associated with advocacy.

The book's structure is simplicity itself, taking the reader from an introduction to the fundamentals of the issue, different types of advocacy and their risks, through assessment of what the client or patient wants and the role of self-advocacy - the ideal.

With further chapters covering reduction of risks, and concluding chapters on training and supervision, the journey is comprehensive.

It is simplified through excellent case studies, with a summary of key points at the end of each chapter and analysis of learning objectives.

If there is one area which could have been covered in more depth it is the groups with special needs (mental health, learning disability and brain injury).

This field is perhaps the most tricky and certainly the most fraught with dilemmas and challenges.

For these most vulnerable groups of people it is a challenge for us all to meet the high ideals and aspirations that self-advocacy would propose.

One major lesson that does come shining through is the need for effective, appropriate and measurable professional training of advocates.

This is particularly necessary for individuals representing an advocacy agency, and Teasdale demonstrates the necessity of standards and 'policing' to ensure the continued credibility of such advocates.

The chapters covering risk are relevant to everyone in the field of healthcare and the messages are transferable across many of the dimensions of risk well beyond those related to advocacy.

This book is a good read for all those currently acting as advocates.

With its clear explanations of all the parameters surrounding the field, through to guidelines for training and development, as well as practice, it is as useful to those who currently practise advocacy as those who are considering taking on this worthy mantle.

Peter Buckley

Director, service development, St Andrew's Hospital, Northampton.