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BACKGROUND. A proposal to run a higher professional education course attracted strong initial interest. However, only 12% of those 74 general practitioners expressing an interest subsequently enrolled on the course. AIM. A study was undertaken to examine the factors that demotivated the remaining 88% from attending. METHOD. A questionnaire was sent to the non-attenders, asking them to rank the impact of each of six factors on their decision not to attend. RESULTS. Major factors included time commitment, general practice workload and family pressures. Cost, attitudes of practice partners and structure of the course were much less important. CONCLUSION. It seems that the conditions imposed by the current demands of working as a general practitioner, rather than the attitudes of the general practitioners themselves, inhibit this form of continuing professional development.