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Five hundred patients were asked what advice they had received before attending the doctor's surgery. The results were analysed and compared with an identical survey carried out in 1970. There have been few changes in the frequency and nature of lay advice over the last 15 years, with women still being the chief source of informal advice; the advice from men was generally to go to the doctor. Pharmacists play an increasing role and television is mentioned three times more often as a source of information in 1985 than 1970. Home doctor books are more up to date and are used more frequently. Self-care and lay advice remain important sources of medical care, suggesting that health education is a matter of priority.