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Glad to be a 21st-century GP

I enjoyed reading the september issue of the practitioner, in particular Dr Hermann Beigel's article ‘On inhalation in diseases of the throat' (Practitioner 2008;252[1711]:18), originally published in 1868.

Such a piece makes one glad to be a doctor in the 21st century. It brings up images of a late night visit to an oil-lit, grimy slum by an anxious doctor to see even more anxious parents and a very sick child.

In 1868, many children would have had viral croup and only reassurance would be required, perhaps combined with Dr MacIntosh's ‘watery vapour', a treatment not dissimilar from today's therapy of choice.

However, diphtheria and epiglottitis would have been killers, claiming tens of thousands of lives each year. And both would have been highly amenable to antibacterial treatment that would come 80 years too late.

Anxiety and isolation must have been the underlying emotions in the doctor of 1868.

Today there are few childhood deaths in the UK. Had I been reading The Practitioner in 1868 I would, perhaps, also be reflecting on the deaths of several children in the practice that day.

But at least then, as now, thoughtful clinicians were using medical journals such as The Practitioner to consider the best ways to improve treatment.

Dr Peter Jones
GP, North Wales

Glad to be a 21st-century GP

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