BACKGROUND: Previous studies of bereavement in primary care have tended to concentrate on the attitudes of general practitioners (GPs) to bereavement support and little has been documented on the views of patients. AIM: To establish the role, content, and value of a protocol designed to help the newly bereaved by examining the experiences and expectations of a group of bereaved patients within a single general practice, with a view to developing patient care within this area. METHOD: A qualitative approach was adopted using a semi-structured questionnaire, data collection, and analysis consistent with the principles of grounded theory. Patients were approached by letter and those who agreed to take part in the study were interviewed at home. RESULTS: Many of those interviewed expected some form of contact from their GP after bereavement, although the nature of the contact they would have liked varied. The majority would have appreciated a letter of sympathy and none would have objected to it. Over half expressed some form of dissatisfaction either with their GP or with the hospital. Quality of information giving and communication affected bereavement outcomes for some. The role of the GP was examined and patients responded positively to practical suggestions to improve bereavement care. CONCLUSIONS: Bereavement support was seen to be an important part of the GP role by the majority of those interviewed. As a result recommendations have been made for a protocol to support the newly bereaved.