Rheumatology outpatient consultations were recorded throughout the South Western Regional Health Authority for one month. Of 2987 consultations (equivalent to 32,600 annually), 630 (21%) were new referrals who waited 60 days (mode) before their consultation. Rheumatoid arthritis and polyarthritis accounted for 43% of new referrals and 75% of follow-up patients. For these categories, 6.5 follow-up patients were seen for each new referral, but this ratio varied from 3.7 to 11.7. Other diagnoses also had variable patterns of follow-up but because they represented only a small proportion they were less relevant to overall service provision and resource consumption. These data not only outline current outpatient working patterns but also indicate areas of further investigation which might elucidate methods of providing good patient care and appropriate use of resources.