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One hundred and twenty boys were referred by GPs over a 12-month period to a paediatric urologist for circumcision. The reasons for referral were: ballooning in 36, non-retraction in 28, balanoposthitis in 36 or a combination in 15. On examination 53% had a retractile, 21% a partially retractile and 21% a non-retractile foreskin. Six patients had obvious balanitis xerotica obliterans. Only one quarter of the patients required a circumcision. The penis was not examined by the referring doctor in 15 patients. The implications of this survey are that a large proportion of general practitioners have difficulty in discriminating between a true phimosis and a developmentally non-retractile foreskin. This diagnostic inaccuracy was greatest when the referring doctor did not examine the patient.