The emotional reactions of 57 general practitioners to three aspects of work was assessed by means of questionnaires. The quality of patient care was assessed by means of observations of general practice consultations, assessment of audiotaped consulting hour contacts and an analysis of the referral and prescription figures. A distinction was made between the degree of positive and the degree of negative feelings general practitioners have about their work. Many positive feelings (satisfaction, feeling at ease) correlated with more openness to patients, more attention to psychosocial aspects of the complaints but also with a higher rate of referral to medical specialists. On the other hand, many negative feelings (frustration, tension, lack of time) correlated with a high prescription rate and with giving little explanation to patients. To some extent the way that work is experienced by general practitioners correlated with the quality of care for the patients, but what constitutes cause and effect requires further study. A reflection of a doctor's own feelings about work should become part of training, continuing education and medical audit programmes.