HSJ monographs Cancer services Specialist team from Royal Marsden Hospital, London 22 pages £12.99 To order call 01483-303017

This monograph sets out to provide a concise overview of key cancer services and policy, with the aim of promoting best practice through consideration of current evidence.

The layout of the publication is user-friendly - there is even a margin for recording 'action notes'. This could enable the reader to track their own service achievements in line with policy recommendation.

It has five sections:

National guidelines. It is worth indicating at the start that the monograph was released before the release of the national cancer plan in October. The monograph starts by looking at some of the most important national guidelines using the recommendations of the Calman-Hine report in 1995 as its launch pad. It also signposts useful sources of further information and is helpful for all healthcare professionals wanting to get up to speed on policy recommendations for cancer over the past five years.

It highlights the effect that policy should be having on clinical practice, cleverly bringing all the pieces of the jigsaw together.

Drug treatments.With cancer now the biggest killer in the country, a comprehensive strategy for tackling this growing problem is required.

This section alerts the reader to the importance of cancer treatments. New drugs and their actions are discussed in understandable language, covering monoclonal antibodies, chemotherapeutic agents and hormonal treatments. Some previous knowledge is assumed, but the level is easy to follow. New radiotherapy regimes are highlighted, with discussion around altered fractionation regimes and the use of concomitant chemoradiotherapy. This brings the reader up to date on the latest advances in treatment and the effects that these can have on working practice.

Screening. Effects of current screening programmes and challenges for future programmes are discussed in relation to our rationale, for example, against screening for lung cancer.

Clinical trials. This section talks about the types, conduct and process of clinical trials.

Current allocations of funding and imminent changes to this structure are also explored.

Palliative care. This explores issues in relation to patient choice in place of death and gives useful, national and local suggestions about how to improve access to 24-hour palliative care. Five strategic points for the co-ordination and provision of accessible, equitable, quality palliative care are listed. The importance of multidisciplinary team working is stressed and the characteristics identified.

Pointers are also given for further development opportunities in palliative care.

The monograph achieves its ambition to provide a concise overview and is essential reading for all healthcare professionals who need to know about cancer policy and treatments but haven't had the opportunity to read previous documents/publications.