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Twenty-two patients with skin problems were identified on the basis that their general practitioner was satisfied with their management and had no intention of referring them to hospital. These patients were reviewed by one of two dermatologists who made treatment recommendations in 14 cases, and these suggestions were taken up by 11 patients. Six patients reported definite subjective improvement in their skin condition six weeks later. The general practitioners found the consultation valuable in 17 cases. Although these patients might have improved without the dermatologists' intervention, a group of patients may exist who would benefit from specialist advice, even though that advice has not been sought. Restriction on hospital referrals could therefore be detrimental to patient care. Controlled trials could be conducted to determine the benefit of specialist advice on patients not currently seen in hospital.