Management in Health Care By Neil Wheeler and Diana Grice Stanley Thornes 209 pages £19

There is a curious dedication in this book in which Wheeler thanks several people who have helped him understand management and healthcare in a non-didactic manner.

Yet from the very beginning of the authors' text we are deluged with imperatives because they believe that they can set out 'the ideal as the recommended course of action which should always be a goal'.

Well, has their evangelical stance been justified?

I am afraid not. The book is an odd mish-mash of information and application. Each chapter begins with the theoretical framework. Sometimes this is a reasonable resume, such as in the chapter on change, but the chapter on financial resources is not so helpful because there is little evaluation of the concepts described.

Take capital charging: is it really so much better than treating capital as a sunk cost, given the arbitrary manner in which capital assets are valued?

And suddenly in all this we have quality-adjusted life years, which are, after all, only one way of valuing outcomes.

After the theory comes the practice.

The opening chapter on time management reads like one of those US-style courses which were once all the rage. There is no appreciation of the subtleties of human behaviour.

So we are told that we must 'use every moment' and avoid interruptions. But my interruption of you may be just what you need to break up the tyranny of the time-managed day.

'The NHS employs a bewildering number of different professions.' The authors are clearly bewildered, too, when they attempt a list which is remarkable for its omissions - no mention of physios or ancillary staff, for instance. There are also some inaccuracies: only a minority of general managers are employed on fixed-term contracts - not all, as the authors say.

Quality is on many people's minds, and particularly important are the new roles of the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, Commission for Health Improvement and national service frameworks. The perfunctory paragraph on them suggests it was added to a text already written.

The last chapter, purporting to describe the NHS, suffers from a variety of obvious errors such as the dates of the original NHS Act -1946 not 1947- and the first reorganisation - 1973 not 1970.

It has all been better done elsewhere so I advise you to give this one a miss.