Over the past three years it has become apparent to me that referring to ‘current affairs’ in these columns can be a mistake, serving only to highlight inevitable printing delays. By the time this edition arrives on your doormat Euro 2004, ‘Big Brother’ and the early summer heat wave will be nothing but a distant memory. However the ‘recent’ publication of the Royal College of Physicians document ‘Acute Medicine – making it work for patients’ cannot be allowed to pass without a mention. This report represents a significant shift in the position of the College in relation to Acute Medicine since the previous working party reported its findings in 2000. The value of consultants specialising in Acute Medicine is now clearly recognised and supported – every trust should now have one, with the minimum figure of three per hospital being proposed by 2008. Whether this is achievable will depend on the rapid development of training schemes across the UK, as well as the generation of enthusiasm for the specialty amongst junior staff. The number of applicants for our Wessex programme indicates no shortage of the latter. Although developing a training scheme takes a lot of hard work, it is vital that those already working in the specialty make this a high priority. We have already seen benefits from the appointment of high quality middle grade staff and are looking forward to a ‘flood’ of future applicants for local consultant posts, 4 years from now.

This edition comprises four more important review papers on aspects of acute medicine, along with the first in our ‘Controversies in acute medicine’ series. The latter was designed to try to stir up some correspondence, for future publication. The confusion over oxygen delivery in the acute setting seems to reign fairly widely amongst junior, and indeed some more senior medical staff. Hopefully Dr Cooper’s well-written paper will serve to dismiss some of the misconceptions in this area. Our reviews cover relatively uncommon, but nonetheless important aspects of acute medicine. Tuberculosis and HIV are both on the increase in the UK. The success of anti-retroviral therapy will undoubtedly lead HIVrelated illness to be a significant part of our practice over the next decade. An understanding of the range of conditions specific to this group of immunocompromised patients is therefore crucial for physicians involved in the acute take. Hypoglycaemia and suspected bacterial meningitis are both conditions which require immediate action by medical staff. Both of these reviews comprehensively cover their respective topics with a combination of well written text, illustrations tables and algorithms. Dr Hartman highlights recent evidence supporting the use of dexamethosone in bacterial meningitis and re-iterates some of the points made in an earlier edition regarding the use (and abuse) of CT scanning prior to lumbar puncture.

For a change we have no case reports this time, although Dr Macdonald’s audit of the innovative review clinic in the Emergency Assessment Area of Heartlands hospital provides a worthy substitute. Submission of similar articles in future would be most welcome.

Once again, a reminder that multiple choice questions are for self assessment and ‘personal’ CPD only; I hope you will find this edition helpful in your clinical practice.


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Acute Hypoglycaemia: Diagnostic criteria, Investigation and Management for the Emergency Physician

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