Interpersonal skills for nurses and health care professionals

By Rob Wondrak Blackwell Science 176 pages£12.99

The government has ordered us to remove competition and secrecy from the workplace and learn, with great speed, how to bond in happy partnership with our multidisciplinary colleagues.

Co-operation, integration, partnership and teamwork are the order of the day. The new primary care groups will certainly require these attributes if they are to be effective and make their full contribution to the improvement of primary healthcare services - and ultimately the public's health.

And the workplace generally will need such qualities in abundance if the government's demands are to be met. So this book is most welcome and has been published at a time when healthcare professionals should be firmly focused on improving their own interpersonal skills.

The author has certainly succeeded in describing their importance and how they are a crucial element of enhanced patient care.

Without doubt, interpersonal skills improve patient care, and this needs to be constantly acknowledged as clinical effectiveness and evidence-based practice are so in vogue.

There is a danger that in the drive to prove the value of treatment in scientific terms, other aspects of care such as interpersonal and communication skills become less, not more, important. Clinicians and managers should accept that while a number of interventions cannot be proved scientifically, they do have a positive impact on patients' health.

Interpersonal skills are also invaluable to the development of positive relationships between the diverse individuals who make up health and social care teams.

The New NHS needs robust teamwork if it is to deliver the goods in the style of Mr Blair and we are only too aware that colleagues can be tricky customers.

The reader is offered a combination of theoretical approaches and a number of practical case studies focused on children, adolescents, adults, older patients and adults with mental health problems. There are also chapters on cultural and spiritual care and the 'eclectic approach' - a subject non-mental health nurses need to know much more about.

This book can greatly improve the knowledge base of health and social care workers without specific mental health training. While on its own it cannot create experts, it will certainly help the non-initiated to question the quality of their interpersonal skills and, hopefully, inspire many to work on self-improvement.

Mr Wondrak's book is enjoyable and would be a worthy addition to the reading lists of both pre and post-registration education programmes for a number of disciplines, not only nursing.

It should encourage the enlightened to confront the quality of their own interpersonal skills and, as a result, improve practice. I hope it will be read and inwardly digested by a large number of people.

It would be good news to hear that Mr Wondrak is now writing a book on the interpersonal skills needed by health and social care workers to build effective teamwork, strong partnerships, corporate working and improved integration to flourish specifically in the New NHS.

Lynn Young

Community health adviser, Royal College of Nursing