Nursing and politics Power through practice Edited by Abigail Masterson and Sian Maslin-Prothero Churchill Livingstone 249 pages £15.95

The simple but essential aim of this book is to increase nurses' knowledge and know-how about the messy business of politics and the importance of being political.

The New NHS health reforms put nursing in a stronger position then all previous reforms, making it - at long last - an important discipline in terms of providing and commissioning services.

Despite the government's nurse-friendly initiatives, if nurses are really determined to have more influence in the modern health service they will need to improve their understanding of how the political system works. Nurses need to confront the fact that it is crucial to be smart political operators in today's health world. And here is the book to help them through the maze of political concepts and parties, interest groups, local government and the EU.

Nursing and Politics offers the reader a sound and informed background to the history of the NHS and the welfare state. The changes that took place during the 1970s are well described, and external factors such as the oil crisis, which had a knock-on effect on the welfare state, are included.

The point that the NHS does not function in isolation and is used by all parties as a political football is well made.

The book travels through the 1980s - when the impact of Griffiths was felt by the nursing profession - and into the 1990s when the internal market, GP fundholding and the Community Care Act were imposed in a dramatic way on nurses. A glimpse into Mr Blair's New NHS is also provided and will, hopefully, encourage readers to delve deeper.

Nursing and Politics gives readers some insight into various political perspectives, which should give them a better understanding of the state of nursing and the predicament posed by its professionalisation.

Readers are introduced to some of the issues that have affected nurses over the years and will continue to do so. Ethnicity is discussed honestly and fairly.

The authors point out that nurses from overseas accounted for 9 per cent of hospital nurses in the 1970s, and the way many of them were treated makes interesting reading. This section is a reminder that we need to learn from the past and try to treat nurses better in future.

Other topics include the politics of family care, liberalism, feminism, conservatism and patriarchy. Trade unions are introduced, and even the Royal College of Nursing crops up on several occasions.

So lots of information but, unfortunately, little passion or enthusiasm. The politically naive will certainly gain a greater understanding of local, national and European politics, but I am not sure that a significant number will be wildly motivated to become more political as a result. This is the only deficit in an otherwise welcome book.

Lynn Young

Community health adviser,

Royal College of Nursing.