BACKGROUND: Primary health care services are the most frequently used in the health care system. Consumer feedback on these services is important. Research in this area relates mainly to doctor-patient relationships which fails to reflect the multidisciplinary nature of primary health care. AIM: A pilot study aimed to examine the feasibility of using a patient satisfaction questionnaire designed for use with general practitioner consultations as an instrument for measuring patient satisfaction with community nurses. METHOD: The questionnaire measuring patient satisfaction with general practitioner consultations was adapted for measuring satisfaction with contacts with a nurse practitioner, district nurses, practice nurses and health visitors. A total of 1575 patients in three practices consulting general practitioners or community nurses were invited to complete a questionnaire. Data were subjected to principal components analysis and the dimensions identified were tested for internal reliability and replicability. To establish discriminant validity, patients' mean satisfaction scores for consultations with general practitioners, the nurse practitioner, health visitors and nurses (district and practice nurses) were compared. RESULTS: Questionnaires were returned relating to 400 general practitioner, 54 nurse practitioner, 191 district/practice nurse and 83 health visitor consultations (overall response rate 46%). Principal components analysis demonstrated a factor structure similar to that found in an earlier study of the consultation satisfaction questionnaire. Three dimensions of patient satisfaction were identified: professional care, depth of relationship and perceived time spent with the health professional. The dimensions were found to have acceptable levels of reliability. Factor structures obtained from data relating to general practitioner and community nurse consultations were found to correlate significantly. Comparison between health professionals showed that patients rated satisfaction with professional care significantly more highly for nurses than for general practitioners and health visitors. Patients' rating of satisfaction with the depth of relationships with health visitors was significantly lower than their ratings of this relationship with the other groups of health professionals. There were so significant differences between health professional groups regarding patients' ratings of satisfaction with the perceived amount of time spent with health professionals. CONCLUSION: The pilot study showed that it is possible to use the consultation satisfaction questionnaire for both general practitioners and community nurses. Comparison between health professional groups should be undertaken with caution as data were available for only a small number of consultations with some of the groups of health professionals studied.