A prospective survey of 1086 general surgical in-patients was carried out in West Dorset district to determine the incidence of postoperative infections for individual surgeons. A total of 79 cases were diagnosed as having become infected, resulting in an overall infection rate of 7.3%. For all cases the infection rate for individual surgeons varied from 3.9 to 14.6% (P less than 0.005; chi 2 test). For the clean operative category only, the infection rate varied from 2.9 to 20.0% (P less than 0.0005; chi 2 test). The results demonstrate the value of routine surgical audit in elaborating the variation in clinical outcomes for individual surgeons. Clinical audit can identify the need for extra supervision and training of junior staff and peer review for senior clinicians.