BACKGROUND. Recent government reports have suggested changes to the organization of maternity care in the United Kingdom which may well affect the contribution of general practitioners. AIM. This study set out to document the range of obstetric care provided by general practitioners, their perceived competence at various obstetric procedures, and their beliefs about their role in maternity care. METHOD. A postal questionnaire was sent to a random one in four sample of general practitioners in the South Western Regional Health Authority of England. RESULTS. Of 424 questionnaires sent out, 333 (79%) were returned. Of 303 respondents, 98% provided both antenatal and postnatal care. Of 294 respondents, 45% provided intrapartum care and 27% booked women for home deliveries. Of 117 respondents providing hospital intrapartum care 47% booked 10 or fewer women each year, and most provided little practical intrapartum care. Compared with those providing only antenatal and postnatal care, those who provided intrapartum care believed themselves to be more competent at various obstetric procedures and their perceived competence was significantly correlated to the number of procedures that they performed. Those general practitioners providing intrapartum care made significantly more postnatal visits than those providing only antenatal/postnatal care and were significantly more likely to believe that general practitioners have an important role in labour. CONCLUSION. Many general practitioners in the south western region of England still provide a choice in maternity care for women, and believe that they have an important role in such care. Further work is required to establish what women and their general practitioners believe the latter contribute to maternity care.