If you are reading this to pass the time while queueing outside your local Roxy, then the chances are you already know that today sees the UK cinema debut of The Phantom Menace , part one in George Lucas' Star Wars epic, which so creatively began with parts four to six.

Some will uncharitably see parallels with NHS public consultation in a process which reaches its conclusion before telling you how it got there. And there may be lingering suspicions that the Force is a metaphor for the power of general management - we all know someone who has turned to the dark side.

But in truth health and medicine simply do not impinge on Star Wars - and nor does any aspect of everyday life. And therein, perhaps, lies the difference between space opera and space soap, for Star Trek has produced two notable doctors - 'Bones' McCoy in the original, and Dr Crusher in Voyager.

As a good 23rd-century medic, McCoy was horrified by the idea of his 20th century predecessors' practice of cutting patients open. But while the principles of post-surgical treatments never became clear, much has been written about his principal diagnostic device - the medical tricorder.

As Canada Online's Discovery Channel points out, crude versions at least of the real thing have been with us since the US military asked researchers for a handheld device capable of detecting life under battlefield conditions. Its Tricorder website is a technophile's dream.

But why stop there when, as Damn it Jim, it's only a tricorder claims, scientists in California (where else? ) have already come up with a diagnostic device for nurses which can detect the molecules of particular viruses and offer an instant assessment of the patient's condition.

Now if only someone could come up (Dr Crusher style) with a hologramatic doctor, that would really get the BMA going.

These and other sites of interest can be reached via HSJ 's web-site at www.hsj.co.uk