OBJECTIVE: To survey general practitioners' opinions of the quality of care offered by an urban accident and emergency (A&E) department. METHODS: A postal questionnaire was used. The questionnaire addressed issues of patient treatment, communications between hospital and GPs, and the GPs' perceptions of patient satisfaction. Questions required graded responses. Response rate was 57% (91 of 160 GPs mailed). RESULTS: 96% and 91% of responders respectively were satisfied with patient assessment and treatment, and 70% were satisfied with the explanation given to the patient. Problems were highlighted in communications between the department and GPs. 68% reported that adult patients always/usually gave their practice a hand written letter detailing their initial A&E attendance. Concerns were expressed about the content, illegibility, and inconvenience of this form. 42% of GPs reported never/rarely receiving a typed summary of patients discharged from the A&E review clinic. 28% of GPs would have appreciated a telephone call from the department on occasions. The areas of most patient dissatisfaction were perceived by GPs as: waiting time (67%), communication (19%), staff attitude (7%), and actual treatment (7%). CONCLUSIONS: A postal survey of local GPs can give valuable information about the quality of care provided by a hospital department. Overall GP satisfaction with the service was high, but there are concerns about aspects of written and telephone communications between the department and GPs, which can be addressed.