The doctor’s bag is very important and the contents of it vary according to the individual doctor and their pattern of work. GPs working in remote parts of the Highlands of Scotland will obviously have very different requirements from those working in the inner city. Many GPs will no longer work out of hours but will still need to be able to assess and manage patients while out on home visits. Those working for out of hours organisations may have some, or all, of the necessary equipment and medications provided.
Some GPs may prefer to wear a jacket or coat with capacious pockets rather than carry a bag. Most GPs will use a bag of some variety and the following should be considered:
The bag must be lockable and not left unattended.
Most medicines should be stored between 4° and 25°C. A silver-coloured bag or cool bag is more likely to keep drugs cooler than a traditional black bag.
Consider keeping a maximum-minimum thermometer in the bag to record extremes of temperature.
Bright lights may inactivate some drugs (eg, injectable prochlorperazine) so keep the bag closed when not in use.
Lock the bag out of sight in the vehicle boot when not in use.
Basic and administrative equipment
Photocard ID should be carried. Many patients may recognise their regular GP but locums or new GPs may need to confirm their identity before admission and all GPs may be required to identify themselves to other emergency services.
Mobile phone – smartphones may also serve a number of other functions but this may be dependent on adequate reception.
Stationery and a limited number of FP10 prescriptions, Med3 (fit notes), letter-headed paper and envelopes.
British National Formulary or equivalent – but electronic versions of these which can be used via a smartphone or tablet are available and can replace the need for printed reference material.
Local map or electronic equivalent – satnav/GPS or smartphone.
Personal alarm – several versions are readily available. The police suggest that when used, an alarm be thrown about 10-20 feet to cause distraction.
Stethoscope and pocket diagnostic set.
Sphygmomanometer and infrared thermometer – sphygmomanometers should have calibration date stickers.
Glucometer including appropriate strips and lancets.
Alcohol wipes, gloves, lubricating jelly.
Alcohol gel for hands.
Additional sphygmomanometer cuffs.
Multistix for urinalysis.
Tongue depressors, preferably wrapped.
Peak flow meter, preferably low-reading.
Specimen bottles (urine/faeces) and swabs.
Some GPs will also carry the following equipment:
A selection of syringes (1 ml, 2 ml and 5 ml), needles and tourniquet will need to be included if any parenteral medication is carried.
A small sharps box.
A selection of airways can form part of the car’s first aid kit and can be extended to one’s own preference and skills up to full ‘BASICS’ level.
Reversible fluorescent jacket (with Velcro® ‘Doctor’ signs) carried in the vehicle boot can be helpful in emergencies.
Handheld spotlight plugged into the cigarette lighter can highlight house numbers (where they exist).
Out of hours services are likely to provide equipment such as an automated external defibrillator (AED), oxygen and nebulisers. Individual GPs will need to assess whether these items are appropriate to their practice.