Hospital-acquired infection Principles and prevention. Third edition By G Ayliffe, JR Babb and Lynda Taylor Butterworth-Heinemann 210 pages £18.99

Infections of one kind or another - meningitis, MRSA, tuberculosis and E coli 0157 - seem to feature in at least every other news bulletin these days. Any hospital manager consoling themselves with the thought that most of those listed above are community infections should consider the impact on hospitals when patients are admitted - with the risk of further transmission in the wards.

Hospital-acquired infection itself is a significant cause of mortality in the UK, and it is important that all those involved in patient care have a firm understanding of their role in preventing infection and its spread.

The authors are world-renowned experts in the field of hospital infection control, and their book will be of use to all those working in hospitals, from the chief executive to the ward volunteer, for its practical guidance on infection control practice.

It is concise and easy to read and covers a broad range of themes encompassing management and clinical issues and support services.

However, it sticks to its brief and the authors have chosen not to discuss the interface between hospital and the wider community in any detail.

In the first chapter, the authors discuss infection control in relation to administration, the costs associated with HAI, risk management and legal issues.

They describe the roles of the infect ion control team members and the responsibilities of the various committees that develop hospital policy.

This is particularly topical since infection control is currently high on the political agenda. The control of infection must be integral to every aspect of healthcare, enshrined not only in policies and clinical procedures but also in the clinical governance systems, risk management strategies, complaints procedures, accountability, disciplinary actions, research and the development and education strategies of each hospital.

Again, the authors touch on this but do not explore the issues in any great depth.

Subsequent chapters are concerned with the prevention and management of clinical infection, and the remaining chapters outline the role of support services such as laundry, catering and waste management in the control process.

The latter chapters will be welcomed, especially in those hospitals where the management of these services, at least on a day-to-day basis, has been devolved to general managers or ward managers.

Knowledge and understanding of the underlying principles of safe practice may be lost when specialist expertise is removed and these chapters go some way to providing the relevant information.

Infection control is a multidisciplinary activity, but this fact is not always explicit here. Procedures for the prevention of infection are described as nursing aspects, which could promote the idea that infection control is the business of nurses.

Yet many groups of staff are directly involved in patient care and should be taught and encouraged to practice infection control.

There is plenty of evidence to show that communication and record-keeping by healthcare workers is not good, particularly in relation to infection control issues.

More discussion of this, other than in relation to surveillance and outbreak control, would have been useful.

Some of the sections within chapters are short, with limited references, while others are comprehensive with good reading lists.

The book would be useful as an introduction to infection control for any healthcare worker, especially newly appointed infection control practitioners.

But, for many, it will not be detailed or analytical enough to sit on the bookshelf without the company of some supplementary texts.

Janet McCulloch Infection control nurse, Wiltshire Health Authority.