It was hypothesized that patients instilling their own drops following cataract extraction would experience difficulties with this, due to age-related factors, the nature of the operation itself and the fact that studies in other areas have shown compliance to be less than predicted. Ten patients who intended to instil their own drops were each interviewed on the ward before discharge and again 2 weeks later at home. They were asked about previous experience of using drops, general health, knowledge of their treatment regime, practice received on the ward and their feelings about how they were coping. The majority had inappropriate expectations of what compliance with treatment would involve. Six had used drops before and this was the major factor influencing their decision on this occasion. Supervised practice emerged as the recommended method for teaching drop instillation but this was not carried out often enough on the wards. It was concluded that if more time was devoted to developing and improving the teaching of drop instillation this would result in increased compliance with treatment. However, it may not be possible to achieve all the goals of a teaching programme on the wards and the teaching role may need to be extended into the community.