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Core Psychiatry. By Padraig Wright, Julian Stern & Michael Phelan. London: W. B. Saunders. 2000. 652 pp. £49.95 (pb). ISBN 0 7020 2490 2

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 January 2018

Allan Young*
Department of Psychiatry Royal Victoria Infirmary, Queen Victoria Road, Newcastle upon Tyne NEI 4LP, UK
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Copyright © Royal College of Psychiatrists, 2001 

Although an obituary has been written for textbooks more than once, they have proven to be a hardy breed which has survived despite being frequently criticised and even at times unloved. Indeed, rather than dying out new textbooks continue to appear and this is true in psychiatry no less than in other branches of medicine.

Core Psychiatry is one such volume. In the preface the authors tell us that, like many other textbooks, it has arisen from a teaching course, in this case one oriented towards individuals sitting Parts 1 and 2 of the MRCPsych examination. In line with this, the book is divided into three parts: Part 1 concentrates on the foundations of psychiatry, Part 2 on clinical psychiatry and Part 3 on diagnosis, investigation and treatment. The curriculum for the membership examination is wide-ranging, to say the least, and to attempt to cover the full range of knowledge in a single volume is ambitious. The authors do not claim to have produced a textbook for psychiatryper se; rather, they offer one specifically for exam candidates. They do, however, claim that it will be a reference volume for those who have passed the MRCPsych and others in medicine and related professions.

By and large, the authors have succeeded in their aim of producing a core textbook that is particularly useful to those who are required to absorb large amounts of information over a short period of time for the purpose of passing examinations. Nevertheless, there are deficiencies. The foundations of psychiatry are inadequately covered (although this must be almost inevitable given that psychiatry draws from so many different disciplines). However, I would think that no trainee psychiatrist, even one cramming for exams, would go through psychiatric training without reading about fundamental issues such as diagnosis and classification, adumbrated so well by Robert Kendell in theCompanion to Psychiatric Studies (Reference Kendell and ZeallyKendell & Zealley, 1993). Other parts of the book are perhaps weaker than rival volumes such as theOxford Textbook of Psychiatry (Reference Gelder, Gath and MayouGelder et al, 1996), and I found the coverage of neuropharmacology particularly disappointing, as was the coverage of affective disorders and psychopharmacology. It is notable that the other textbooks mentioned above deal with these particular areas much more completely.

Upon taking a straw poll of the few local trainees who have attended the course and used the textbook, I found that the direct consumers were very positive about both the course and the textbook. Nevertheless, any potential purchaser will have to consider very seriously whether they will spend their limited amount of cash on this or would prefer one of the more established textbooks.


Gelder, M., Gath, D., Mayou, R., et al (1996) Oxford Textbook of Psychiatry (3rd edn). Oxford: Oxford University Press Google Scholar
Kendell, R. & Zeally, A. K. (1993) Companion to Psychiatric Studies (5th edn). Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone.Google Scholar
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