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A study of 151 new outpatients attending a dermatology clinic in Bristol, England, has been performed to determine what patients with skin disease believe and are told about their condition. The factor most commonly blamed as a causative agent by the patients was worry or emotional upset. Forty-one percent of the patients had used self-medication before going to their general practitioner (GP). Forty-five percent of patients had attended their GP on 4 or more occasions before their referral to hospital. Forty-one percent felt the GP's treatment had either done no good or made things worse, and 13% had experienced some side-effects from treatment. Forty-two percent of patients had been given a diagnosis by their GP but only 16% had been told whether the condition was contagious. Eighteen patients believed they had a contagious disease, but this was subsequently confirmed by the hospital doctor in only 6 cases. Six patients had a skin cancer, but none of them appeared to suspect this diagnosis.