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A postal questionnaire was sent to 634 Leicestershire general practitioners about the service they wanted from their local gastrointestinal unit. Their views were specifically sought in relation to the care of chronic gastrointestinal disorders such as coeliac disease and inflammatory bowel disease. This initial survey was 'testing the water' before addressing GP needs in all areas of gastroenterology including, management issues in peptic ulcer disease and hiatus hernia. The design of the questionnaire was simple with only 12 'yes' or 'no' stems. The response rate to one mailing of the questionnaire was 41% with the rate for each question ranging from 83% (on whether a telephone hot-line would be useful) to 99% (on the value of treatment protocols). There was a poor response rate to some individual stems, with rates of less than 10%, because most GPs only answered 'yes' to the stem they were interested in without answering 'no' to other parts. Most GPs wanted a regular news bulletin on the management of both inflammatory bowel disease and coeliac disease as well as detailed protocols on their treatment. Sixty per cent of respondents wanted a telephone hot line to senior gastroenterologists, with direct dialing to provide immediate advice. Eighty per cent of GPs want shared care with hospital consultants of such patients. A similar proportion thought that this decision should be made jointly by patients and their doctors. There is a clear desire by GPs for a more specialist education in line with the current trend of extending their role. GPs in Leicestershire would value a more active role in the management of patients with chronic intestinal diseases and it is likely that such views are widespread in Great Britain.