All new patients attending a Dublin Hospital's Accident and Emergency (A&E) Department were surveyed to document their reasons for attending and to make comparisons between self-referred and GP referred groups. Of the 557 responders 395 (70.9%) were self-referred. Four-fifths of this group said they had a GP but only 6.6 per cent attempted to contact the GP before attending. Compared with GP referred patients the self-referred group were more likely to be under 45 (74.6 per cent v 59.8 per cent, P < 0.01) and have soft tissue injuries (57 per cent v 32.9 per cent, P < 0.01). They were less likely to require laboratory investigation or to be admitted to hospital (11 per cent v 31.2 per cent, P < 0.01). It is likely many of the self-referred patients could have been managed by a GP. However, A & E departments remain popular sources of treatment for patients with a wide variety of conditions. Current methods of delivering health care to patients with minor conditions require assessment so that patient demands for both a responsive minor injury and emergency service can be met. Almost 70 per cent of all hospital admissions originated from the A&E department. This makes rational planning and management of booked admissions difficult. GPs who refer patients for admission should have an alternative route to hospital beds besides the A&E department.