There is growing recognition of the importance of patients' expectations in general practice. This study aimed to investigate the types of expectations adult primary care patients have prior to consulting the GP, and how far meeting expectations is associated with increased satisfaction. Patients (n = 504) attending general practitioners (n = 25) at 10 London general practices were included in the study. The Patients Intentions Questionnaire (PIQ) was administered prior to the consultation to investigate patients' expectations and the Expectations Met Questionnaire (EMQ) was administered after the consultation to find out what the patient reportedly obtained. Satisfaction with the consultation was also measured using the Medical Interview Satisfaction Scale (MISS). The results of a principal components analysis of PIQ item scores indicated that the most wanted items were for 'explanation of the problem'. There was less desire for 'support' or 'tests and diagnosis'. Many of the 'support' items could potentially be provided to all patients, yet a proportion of patients reported not receiving these items from the GP. The results of one-way ANOVAs revealed that patients with greater numbers of their expectations met reported significantly higher satisfaction with the consultation than those with lower numbers met. The PIQ and EMQ could be potentially useful self-audit tools for use by general practitioners and trainee GPs.