This paper describes the preliminary testing and use of a short self-report instrument designed to identify psychosocial disorder. It combines a shortened version of the social problem questionnaire with the 12 item general health questionnaire. In a survey of 100 patients attending a health centre in inner London 46% recorded a psychiatric problem on the general health questionnaire compared with 35% identified by the general practitioner. For social problems 54% of patients assessed themselves as having one or more social problem compared with 23% detected by the general practitioner. The instrument normally takes five to 10 minutes for the patient to complete and thus can be filled out in busy situations such as a general practice surgery or a hospital outpatient department.