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Everything you need in a Doctor’s Bag

A doctor’s bag is an essential item for all general practitioners (GPs) to support home visits and medical emergencies that occur in the direct vicinity of the practice. As per the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) Standards 5th edition, all practitioners in a practice require ready access to a well-stocked doctor’s bag.

This article specifies what a doctor’s bag is, why your practice needs one, what to include, and how to store them. We have also developed a doctor’s bag contents list, which can be used as a guide when packing one for your practice.

What is a doctor’s bag?

A doctor’s bag is pre-packed, portable container used to store essential medical supplies and medicine to use for home visits and external emergencies. It’s an invaluable tool when you need to take part of the practice to the patient. It can be any bag; however, purpose-designed doctor’s bags are the most popular, of which there are many variations.

The type of bag used in your practice will depend on the needs of your patient population and the GPs. Ultimately, what defines a doctor’s bag is what it contains. Having the right tools and supplies on the go is essential to providing quality healthcare.

A doctor’s bag must be fully equipped and stocked appropriately while being easily accessible to all GPs in your practice. The size, shape and layout of your doctor’s bag(s) will be determined by what it needs to hold.

Why does my practice need a doctor’s bag?

Criterion GP5.3 – Indicator GP5.3>A in the RACGP Standards 5th edition requires GPs to have a fully equipped doctor’s bag for routine visits and emergency care with a minimum set of items to be stored within the bag. This ensures that GPs are prepared to make house calls and other visits and can assist at short notice in medical emergencies that may arise within the community. A doctor’s bag that is properly stocked with core equipment, medications, and stationery gives GPs the tools they need to offer the necessary care in these situations.

It should be noted that more than one GP may share the use of a doctor’s bag. The number of bags will depend on the needs of your community and the size of your practice. If you are a smaller practice, you may only require one bag that your GPs share. Whereas medium or larger practices, or practices that make a lot of external visits may require various bags so multiple GPs can simultaneously use a bag when needed.

What do I pack in a doctor’s bag?

The doctor’s bag must contain the mandatory equipment and stationery in order to meet the RACGP doctor’s bag requirements. Additionally, tools in regular use and medication specific to the community’s needs should also be added to the doctor’s equipment bag.

Mandatory requirements

When in use, the doctor’s bag must contain specific items to meet the RACGP Standards requirements for accreditation. See the RACGP doctor’s bag checklist for mandatory items below:

  • Auriscope
  • Disposable gloves
  • Equipment for maintaining an airway in adults and children
  • Hand sanitiser
  • In-date medicines for medical emergencies
  • Intravenous access
  • Practice stationery (including prescription pads and letterhead)
  • Ophthalmoscope
  • Sharps container
  • Sphygmomanometer
  • Stethoscope
  • Surgical mask
  • Syringes and needles in a range of sizes
  • Thermometer
  • Tongue depressors
  • Torch

Additionally recommended drugs and equipment

The selection of medication included in a practices doctor’s bag(s) will depend on the location of the practice, the healthcare needs of the local community, the types of clinical conditions likely to be encountered and the shelf-life and climatic vulnerability of the various drugs (e.g. antibiotics, vaccines).

Generally, doctor’s bag drugs should be relatively safe and simple to use. More sophisticated drugs, such as those used in cardiac emergencies, are best reserved for hospital use where circumstances permit.

Suggested RACGP doctor’s bag medications to include are detailed under Criterion GP5.3 – Indicator GP5.3>A of the RACGP Standards. The Royal Children’s Hospital also has a list of paediatric drugs and their dosage. You should review both resources to ensure you have an adequately packed doctor’s bag(s). Many of the medicines listed are under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), meaning you can supply them free of charge to patients in emergencies.

If you’re a current AGPAL client, you can access a comprehensive list of additional items you may also include in the Doctor’s Bag Fact Sheet found in your AGPAL Accreditation Hub under Resources – Facilities and Equipment. On page two, you will find a list of items you might also deem necessary.

No matter what medication or additional items you include, it is essential that the GPs are familiar with them to ensure patient safety. Specifically, general usage, suggested dosage and possible side effects. It is also a requirement that an up-to-date logbook listing the emergency drug stocks in a doctor’s bag is maintained and that a system is in place for checking expiry dates and replacing expired drugs.

Personal protective equipment

PPE is used by staff to minimise infection risk by protecting mucous membranes, airways, skin, and clothing from blood and body substances. This includes gloves, water-impermeable aprons/gowns, masks, protective eyewear, and footwear. The selection of PPE for a doctor’s bag depends on infection risk and necessary transmission-based precautions. At a minimum, the bag should contain gloves, gowns, surgical masks, and protective eyewear for standard precautions, with additional PPE as needed based on a pre-visit risk assessment. Detailed guidance on PPE use is available in the RACGP Infection Prevention and Control Guidelines Section 3 – Personal protective equipment and Section 5 – Levels of precaution.

Storing the doctor’s bag

You must store the doctor’s medical bag securely and in accordance with state/territory laws, particularly if it contains Schedule 8 medicines. Some points to consider when deciding on where and how to store your doctor’s bag(s) include:

  • Be alert to the potential for environmental conditions that may affect the quality, safety and performance of medical devices, particularly regarding storage and maintenance.
  • Take appropriate actions to mitigate risk, including avoiding storing bags in vehicles for long periods and regularly replacing equipment to prevent degradation.
  • Ensure the GPs are familiar with the instructions for the use of medical devices.
  • Report issues with medical devices to the sponsor and/or TGA.

FREE AGPAL Doctor’s Bag Checklist Template for AGPAL clients

We have created a ‘Doctor’s Bag Checklist’ that can be adapted for use within your practice to ensure your bag(s) are adequately stocked and equipment remains in working order.

Please note that the emergency medicines listed in this doctor bag template checklist are an example, so remember to customise your inclusions according to your practice needs. 

This checklist is complimentary for AGPAL clients and can be found in the AGPAL Accreditation Hub within the EDUCATION & RESOURCES > RESOURCES > FACILITIES & EQUIPMENT section.


A GP doctor’s bag provides an essential means to transport the necessary equipment and supplies to provide quality healthcare in any medical setting, from house calls to medical emergencies. Although the RACGP sets basic requirements, it is important to tailor the bag(s) contents to meet the needs of the patients and GPs in the practice.

It is essential that the GPs are familiar with the contents and that the bag is stored securely according to state and territory laws. The doctor’s bag is an invaluable asset for any medical practitioner and should be a staple of any medical office.