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A large and continuing increase in medical emergency admissions has coincided with a reduction in hospital beds, putting the acute medical services under great pressure. Increasing specialization among physicians creates a conflict between the need to cover acute unselected medical emergencies and the pressure to offer specialist care. The shortage of trained nursing staff and changes in the training of junior doctors and the fall in their working hours contribute to the changing role of the consultant physician. The organization of the acute medical service is of paramount importance and requires multi-disciplinary teamwork on an admissions unit with full support services. Excellent bed management is essential. There must be guidelines for all the common medical emergencies and all units must undertake specific audits of the acute medical service. Continuing professional development (CPD) and continuing medical education (CME) should reflect the workload of the physician; that is, it must include time specifically focused on acute medicine and general (internal) medicine, as well as the specialty interest.