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BACKGROUND: The appropriateness of epilepsy as a topic for general practice audit activity has been emphasized, but few audits have been undertaken to data and those that have are small scale. Historically, management of epilepsy has been a neglected area, and services for people with epilepsy remain generally poor. AIM: The study was designed to examine the process of care for people with epilepsy through a region-wide audit of general practitioner records. METHOD: General practitioners in 31 randomly selected general practices in one UK health region undertook a notes audit for all patients identified as having active epilepsy (patients who had had seizures in the last 2 years, or were currently seizure-free but on antiepileptic medication). A standard pro forma was used to collect information relating to diagnosis, drug treatment, and primary and secondary care contacts. RESULTS: Recording of information in the notes was generally good, but poor for some key items essential to the effective management of the condition; results suggest that a number of recommendations about provision of care for epilepsy are not being met: in particular, EEG and CT investigations often appear poorly directed; prescribed antiepileptic therapy is not always optimal; significant numbers of patients are being treated in hospital by non-neurologists; there is little evidence of any regular review being undertaken by general practitioners of their patients with epilepsy; and counselling about the non-clinical aspects of epilepsy often appears inadequate. CONCLUSIONS: Despite recommendations in a number of recent reports, gaps and inconsistencies in epilepsy care persist, both at the primary and secondary level. The means by which such shortcomings can be reduced (e.g. by specialist epilepsy nurses working across the primary-secondary care interface) should now be systematically examined. The study has highlighted a need for evidence-based guidelines which span the primary-secondary care interface and clarify the contribution of the various practitioners involved in the provision of care for people with epilepsy.