Information from hospital doctors about the death of a patient in hospital is important to general practitioners. Six general practices in the Dundee district recorded the date and place of death for all 272 practice patients dying over a 14-month period. In the 193 cases (71%) for which the hospital was responsible for informing the practice of the death the method by which the practice first learned of the death and the time interval between death and the writing of the official hospital letter was also recorded. An immediate telephone call, the established method of informing practices of deaths occurring in hospital took place in only 58% of cases and the letter from hospital was sent within one week in only 49% of cases. These proportions were unaltered by the issue of a unit medical circular to hospital staff informing them of the problem and requesting more prompt notification.The ability of general practitioners to help bereaved relatives is compromised by the present inadequacies in communication between hospitals and general practice. The unit medical circular - the standard method of resolving interprofessional problems - would appear to be ineffective.