Reconfiguring health services A practical guide for managers Principal author Shirley Ann O'Hara Emap Public Sector Management 128 pages (plus CD-ROM) £85

Everyone complains about reinventing wheels, but it still goes on. The same old problems are worked on as though they had never happened before.

Or, even if they had, somehow this time it is different.

This new series from the same stable that produces HSJ aims to try to change that scenario by making other people's experience more accessible and therefore more useful.

It may seem a high price, but with the excellently produced book comes an interactive CD from which you can download.And the cost is no more than an hour of the average management consultant's time.The subject is relevant given the number ofmergers in the offing and the consequent rearrangements of clinical services.

It is perhaps a pity that the particular context is the closing of a psychiatric hospital, Napsbury, which smacks at least to some of us of a 1980s-type problem, but nevertheless all the lessons are there.

The book is divided into five sections: project management, quality and clinical services, human resources, estates and environment, and finance, and these are preceded by a section which spells out some of the pitfalls.

A project manager is advocated because they can encourage staff to direct the process of change rather than being directed by it and becoming victims.

Such a person needs unequivocal support from the chief executive and top team.Throughout, readers are asked to engage in activities.

For instance, in the project management chapter the reader is asked to think about the advantages and disadvantages of appointing an insider or outsider to the role.

There is a danger that the text becomes too didactic, but the authors are at great pains to lead rather than direct.Readers are constantly asked to consider options rather than being told what is best.

The chapter on quality illustrates the usefulness of the accompanying CD. For instance, the process of transferring patients needs to be audited to ensure that patients do not come to harm.

The CD provides several examples of auditing processes which can be used verbatim or suitably adapted.

Another feature of the presentation is to provide telling anecdotes.

Not all of these are positive, which is refreshing.Pondering on mistakes can be salutary.

While the chapter on HR travels a well-frequented path, the next section on estates and environment is particularly succinct and useful, covering everything from the consequences of gradual retraction from a site to the intricacies of planning applications, particularly for change of use.

The final chapter charts the problems arising from the financial implications of reconfiguration where there is usually an overlap in funding the old and the new; bridging funds may be needed.

Understanding whether the costs are fixed, semi-fixed, variable, corporate or functional can be challenging. It is useful to be reminded that VAT can sometimes be reclaimed on new construction and on conversions.

Barnet Healthcare trust has provided much of the case material for this book and must be congratulated on its frankness.

The book and CD marks the launch of a new initiative from HSJ , its management academy. It is a propitious beginning.

Andrew Wall Visiting senior fellow, health services management centre, Birmingham University.