This study investigated the timing of recent medical contact in 150 patients hospitalised for a suicide attempt. The research also examined the proportion of attempters complaining of feeling depressed or suicidal to their doctor at that recent consultation. Seventy-three percent of attempters had seen their doctor in the past three months. Contact with general practitioners was most common in the week before their attempt with 32% of all attempters visiting their doctor during this time and 56% visiting in the previous month. Of those attempters who had consulted their general practitioner prior to their attempt, only 35% had complained about feeling depressed or suicidal to their doctor. Several factors that hinder the successful identification of suicidal risk in the general practitioner-patient relationship are identified. The implications of these findings for suicide prevention are discussed.