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Almost everyone who goes to bed counts upon a full night’s rest: like a picket at the outposts, the doctor must be ever on call.

Karl F Marx (1796–1877)

GPs who perform home visits and nursing home visits require the traditional doctor’s bag that includes the basic tools of trade, drugs (including those for emergency use), stationery and various miscellaneous items. Country doctors will by necessity use their bag for more emergency home and roadside calls. These recommended contents are simply a guide for cross-checking.

Essential requirements for the bag

  • Sturdiness

  • Lockable (e.g. combination lock)

  • Ready interior access

  • Uncluttered

  • Disposable single-use items

  • Light, portable equipment

  • Regular checks to ensure non-expired drugs

  • Storage in a cool place (not boot of car)

Stationery (checklist)

  • Practice letterhead and envelopes

  • Prescription pads

  • Hospital admission forms

  • Sickness/off-work certificates

  • X-ray, pathology referral forms

  • Accounting forms

  • Dangerous drugs record books

  • Continuation notes

  • Large adhesive labels to record visit (attach later to patient’s history)

  • Tie-on labels for emergencies

  • Recommendation forms (to psychiatric/mental hospitals)

  • Pens

Miscellaneous items

  • Quick reference cards:

    • the doctor’s bag checklist12

    • dosage details of drugs, all age groups

    • important telephone numbers

  • Local map

  • Phonecard or coins for public telephone use

  • Handbook of emergency medicine


  • Sphygmomanometer (aneroid)

  • Stethoscope

  • Pulse oximeter

  • Diagnostic set (auriscope = ophthalmoscope)

  • Tongue depressors

  • Tourniquet

  • Small needle-disposal bottle

  • Scissors

  • Syringes 2, 5, 10 mL

  • Needles 19, 21, 23, 25 gauge

  • Scalp veins (butterfly) needles

  • IV cannulae 16, 18, 20 gauge

  • Alcohol swabs

  • Micropore tape

  • Thermometer

  • Spacer (e.g. Volumatic, for asthma)

  • Artery forceps

  • Urine testing sticks

  • Pathology specimen bottles

  • Skin swabs, throat swabs

  • Torch

  • Patellar hammer

  • Oral airway (e.g. Revivatube, Resuscitube—FIG. 131.1, Guedel)

  • Laerdal pocket mask (FIG. 131.2)

  • Scalpel (disposable)

  • File (for glass ampoules)

  • Examination glove


Drugs (oral)

  • Samples of commonly used:

    • analgesics

    • antibiotics

    • antidiarrhoeal agents

    • anti-emetics

    • antihistamines

    • sedatives

  • Glyceryl trinitrate (nitroglycerin)

  • Soluble aspirin (for myocardial infarction)

  • Sumatriptan (Imigran)

Drugs (sprays)

  • Glyceryl trinitrate

  • Salbutamol aerosol (see Spacer)

Drugs (topical)

  • Anaesthetic eyedrops

Drugs (injectable)

Refer to Table 131.1.

Table 131.1

Drugs available on PBS (except those marketed #) <>56

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