Abstract The objective of this study was to examine the reliability, effectiveness, accuracy and timeliness of hospital to general practitioner (GP) information transfer by discharge summaries produced in a general public hospital in New South Wales, Australia. A retrospective audit of 569 patient discharge summaries and related medical records with a targeted GP interview was performed to determine receipt and clinical value of the recorded information. The main outcome measure was the number and quality of discharge summaries received by patient-nominated GPs. Summaries written for patients discharged from hospital were estimated to be received by the patient-nominated GP in 27.1% of cases. Discharge summaries audited were rated as being 63.6% accurate, with errors occurring in all facets of production. The current method of discharge summary production and distribution is unacceptable. The high number of errors (36.4%) and the low rate of receipt (27.1%), indicates that resources invested in the production of the discharge summary could be better utilized to improve information transfer.