BOOKS: Occupational Health Matters in General Practice ByRuth Chambers, Stephen Moore, Gordon Parker and Andy Slovak Radcliffe Medical Press 208 pages £18. 95

In general practice we are exposed to several aspects of occupational health. First as employers, then as advisers to and advocates for our patients, and finally as workers ourselves.

This book attempts to cover all aspects of our exposure with the option of developing a personal development plan. Like many books with several authors it fails to read cohesively and cannot support the cover's proclamation, 'essential reading for GPs and all members of the primary care team'. It should still be available as a source of information in a practice library, and is likely to be particularly helpful for doctors training in general practice.

The first four chapters by Gordon Parker relate to occupational health in the workplace. These are the least attractive part of the book and should have been heavily edited to provide a more concise background to the subject. Some of the information is necessary to place the role of the GP in context, but the balance is not right. For example, it is unnecessary to include definitions of occupational exposure limits and standards to substances at work, but necessary to make it clear in the section on food handlers when a GP should be involved (not in uncomplicated cases of short duration).

The chapter on ethics and confidentiality is welcome, as this is an area in which many GPs flounder when dealing with occupational health colleagues.

While most of the advice given is stimulating and correct there is a glaring inaccuracy in the section on access to records with references to the Health Records Act, which was superseded by new data protection legislation in March 2000. This surely deserves an amending insert.

As one proceeds, the book's relevance and usefulness increase. Andy Slovak provides an interesting illustration of some common and rarer problems for GPs.

The chapter on the 'in-house' side of occupational health in general practice is by no means the only source of such help for GPs. Here it is presented in a sympathetic and stimulating way and provides a quick reference for practice managers, nurses and GPs.

There is really nothing else in the field; but this is not a simple book. It is centred around personal development, and the final two chapters refute any criticisms of earlier chapters.

As usual, Ruth Chambers explains a development plan and assists readers to prepare their own plan with consummate skill. The choice of stress management is a masterstroke, a personal development plan topic that should be considered by all of us working in general practice.

A final comment must be aimed at the publishers. A layout with oversized headings and tables breaking across pages detracts from the book's readability and should not be followed in future publications.