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Although day case surgery is recommended, its widespread feasibility in an urban environment is unclear. We studied 100 consecutive unselected patients admitted for surgical procedures considered to be suitable for day case surgery. Their age, fitness and social details were recorded and they were asked both before surgery and after discharge by a postal questionnaire, whether they would have preferred treatment as an outpatient. There were 47 men and 53 women with a mean age of 42.5 years. Ninety-six were considered to be medically fit for day case surgery but 10 patients lived alone, seven had no suitable companion, 22 had too many stairs to climb, 13 lived too far from the hospital and two could not provide a lift home. Thus 58 of the patients were unsuitable for day case surgery. Seventy-eight of the patients replied to the postal questionnaire. Before the operation 51 patients preferred the idea of day care but only 14 felt the same way afterwards. The single postoperative complication was one case of acute retention after a hernia repair. In our experience, over half the patients initially deemed suitable for day case surgery would be unsuitable.