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This paper reports the results of a prospective survey on 500 consecutive patients consulting an ophthalmic medical practitioner. The reason for consultation, and results of refraction and examination were analysed. The majority required only a refraction. One in 8 visits was for primary ophthalmic health care other than refraction. An abnormality of the visual system (other than refractive error) was present in 19% of patients. Five per cent required referral to their general practitioner.