Empathy is a complex multi-dimensional concept that has moral cognitive emotive and behavioural components Clinical empathy involves an ability to: (a) understand the patient's situation, perspective, and feelings (and their attached meanings); (b) to communicate that understanding and check its accuracy; and (c) to act on that understanding with the patient in a helpful (therapeutic) way. Research on the effect of empathy on health outcomes in primary care is lacking, but studies in mental health and in nursing suggest it plays a key role. Empathy can be improved and successfully taught at medical school especially if it is embedded in the students actual experiences with patients. A variety of assessment and feedback techniques have also been used in general medicine psychiatry and nursing. Further work is required to determine if clinical empathy needs to be, and can be, improved in the primary care setting.