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The aim of this study was to compare and contrast the views of general practitioners (GPs), hospital doctors and medical students to alternative medicine. A questionnaire was sent to a random sample of 100 GPs and 100 hospital doctors in the South West Thames Regional Health Authority (SWTRHA). A convenience sample of 237 pre-clinical medical students at St George's Hospital Medical School was also given a questionnaire. Eighty-seven GPs and 81 hospital doctors replied. Five therapies were investigated: acupuncture; chiropractice; homeopathy; naturopathy; and osteopathy. All respondents were asked about their attitude towards and knowledge of these therapies. Doctors were asked how often they referred patients for such treatment and whether they practised it themselves. GPs and hospital doctors had similar levels of knowledge of the therapies. Medical students were the least informed but the most enthusiastic respondents. Seventy per cent of hospital doctors and 93% of GPs had, on at least one occasion, suggested a referral for alternative treatment. GPs were making these referrals more frequently and earlier. Twelve per cent of hospital doctors and 20% of GPs were practising alternative medicine. The majority of the respondents felt that alternative medicine should be available on the National Health Service (NHS) and that medical students should receive some tuition about alternative therapies. A considerable proportion of those doctors referring patients to alternative practitioners were ignorant of their official qualifications.