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Little is known about the care provided for the elderly by general practitioners. This study is based on data from 89 030 consultations with patients of all ages of which 17 771 were with patients over 65 years of age. It was found that general practitioners carry out more follow-up work with their elderly patients than with their younger patients and they make more home visits and referrals to nursing and social services. However, they do less investigative work with elderly patients and the level of referral to consultants is the same for patients of all ages. Considerable variation was found between doctors in the pattern of care provided for older patients. The proportion of elderly patients on the list of a general practitioner had little effect on his overall workload. The implications of these findings for health service research and planning are discussed.