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Edited by T G Barrett, A D Lander, and V Diwakar. (Pp 589; £19.99.) Arnold Publishers, 2002. ISBN 0-340-80673-7.
What is the need for this book? The aspiration is for a portable, easy access, reliable guide. Most departments nowadays have sets of guidelines, access to drug formularies, online computers, and better junior doctor support which lessen the need. The almost 600 pages in smallish print would fit in a handbag but would create an unsightly bulge in conventional clothing. The palmtop version is a great idea but I was unable to access the website to download it.
The index is a key feature and is pretty comprehensive (a few omissions) and the cross referencing was good. The style is didactic (although variable from section to section) and informative without being overcomplicated.
In general the book is better on management than diagnosis and a symptom based approach rather than systems based would be an advantage but much more difficult to edit. There were one or two other gripes such as exhortations to full history and examination rather than key features, and it is rather sad to see that general paediatrics is reduced to Bell’s palsy, ear, nose and throat problems, reflux, rashes, and urinary tract infections.
The formulary was fairly comprehensive and the section on normal values is useful. I also liked the “thumbnails” for those myriad childhood syndromes that turn up in clinic to test your knowledge of middle European surnames. This could be expanded as even with >300 entries, a lot were missing.
References are almost non-existent but essential as a basis for drawing up local guidelines or to direct further reading.
There are good ideas and sound clinical advice within the pages but the trainees I spoke to felt no great need to purchase.
The reviewers have been asked to rate these books in terms of four items: readability, how up to date they are, accuracy and reliability, and value for money, using simple four point scales. From their opinions we have derived an overall “star” rating: * = poor, ** = reasonable, *** = good, **** = excellent.