What are you feeling, Doctor? Identifying and avoiding defensive patterns in the consultation By John Salinsky and Paul Sackin Radcliffe Medical Press 192 pages £19.95 paperback

Ionce interviewed Republican senator Bob Dole about his prostate cancer and the effect it had on any relationship with his doctor.'Tell me, Doc, what's the difference between God and a doctor?'

'I don't know, Mr Dole, what is the difference between God and a doctor?'I truthfully but apprehensively replied.

'God doesn't think he's a doctor.'

Despite being GPs themselves and teaching others how to ply the often greasy trade, Salinsky and Sackin don't think they are gods, and their excellent book proves it.

Once upon a time there was Michael Balint, who started the rot in the ivory tower, a traditional safe haven for GPs who found that general practice was just fine if it wasn't for the patients.

Like Balint, the book relies on case histories, the twist being histories of doctors rather than patients. In these days of compulsory revalidation, summative assessment and flagellation with stout birch twigs, self-assessment is essential. In a sense this book acts as a two-dimensional video of performance.

Non-medics might find the frank quotes from GPs a tad unsettling. 'I immediately found myself floundering, as I usually do, not quite sure where to begin. 'Coming from a senior doctor, it might not instil confidence in doctor-patient partnerships, especially if you see your doctor with a sexual problem, as in this case.

This is the point of the book. Doctors are human and will suffer from the teethgrinding shortcomings inherited from Mr and Mrs Sapiens.

The multi-author chapters range from 'the morning surgery' to 'the implications for medical education'. Even a brief skim through the book shows our medical profession badly in need of one to perform the other.

'Naturally I can recognise when it is time for a tactical retreat. I should have given in gracefully, given her some penicillin and gone home.'

Simply highlighting the shortcomings of medical practitioners, fun as it is, would be pointless without guidance on improvement and coping mechanisms. This is given by the bucketful. Though written for doctors, the principles apply to any consultation from any health professional.

Typically Radcliffe, the layout is faultless except that perhaps the block text could be usefully broken with boxes or cartoons to improve readability.