Books

Good people, good practice A practical guide to managing personnel in the new primary care organisations By Hilary Haman and Sally Irvine Radcliffe Medical Press 223 pages£19.95

Thank goodness for the interminable changes in primary care. They continually give new life to books on 'how to be a GP'.

Imagine the mind-bogglingly awful, stethoscope-knotting stasis of simply being a GP without all the excitement, stimulation and experience of fundholding, recently demised fundholding and newly established primary care groups/trusts.

So a book on the advantages of general practice, as if all the changes from 1990 were some medically sensitive deity's gift to our camel's back, is most welcome, if only to show that there is always someone worse off than yourself.

This book could have been written 20 years ago because it contains all the information we need to know about staff working in general practice, irrespective of the major changes since 1990. And that, paradoxically, is its strength.

Want to be a GP principal? Read this book. It will feature very highly on the must-read list for GP registrars going through the mill of summative assessment and the membership exam of the Royal College of General GPs (MRCGP), despite the fact a goodly chunk of them will never become principals. This makes the book as relevant as the joint committee on training in general practice.

It is by definition a discriminatory book because it can only see future general practice dominated by full-time principals, and this is as likely as Shergar winning the next Grand National.Yet it is also a seductive and magnificent presence, clearly laying out the boundaries of 'good people and good practice', assuming as it does that only 'good people'will make it through the hoop-jumping selection process.

Far from looking forwards, the more-than 200 pages hark back to the 'golden age' of the independent self-contractor status.

Norman Ellis, in The General Practitioners Handbook, also from Radcliffe, will give you very nearly the same information, but this is more suited to practice managers than GPs themselves.

This book purports to be a practical guide to managing personnel in the new primary care era, but in fact deals with personnel matters within the practice. It is not restricted by the presence or absence of PCGs or PCTs, so it should sell well in Northern Ireland, which has neither and probably never will. Even so, I have a sneaky hunch it was written for an English audience and some of the legislation may not apply in other parts of the UK.

Every aspect of staff management is covered, from dismissing staff to the Public Interest Disclosure Act (whistle-blowing). It lists the 'rights of all employees regardless of length of service', which includes 'rights'most full-time principals would kill for, not least 'not to have deductions made from salaries unless contractually agreed or required by statute'.

Hoop-jumping to get back a sizeable dollop of your own postgraduate education allowance money was never 'contractually agreed' by anyone.

If you need to know what you should already know, or want to pass the MRCGP exam, this is for you. If you are destined to be a locum GP, save the money and buy another Rolls Royce.

Dr Ian Banks Co Down GP, chair Men's Health Forum.