OBJECTS this study aims to assess the effect of the 1989 health benefits package on the prescribing and consultation rates of the contributing general practitioners. METHODS following the introduction of the health benefits package in February 1989 information on the consultation rates and prescribing records of twenty-eight computerised general practitioners was obtained for the two three month periods of February, March and April 1988 and 1989. Analysis was undertaken both on the pooled data and by comparing consultations for adults, beneficiaries aged 60 or older, beneficiaries less than 60 years and children. RESULTS the number of consultations increased from 57,209 in 1988 to 63,736 in 1989. The number of items prescribed decreased from 66,984 in 1988 to 62,284 in 1989 indicating a mean decrease in the number of prescription items per consultation from 1.02 in 1988 to 0.83 in 1989. Based on the 1988 figures provided by the study the actual percentage decrease in pharmaceutical use by the contributing doctors during the study time frame was 9.3% whereas the expected increase was 11.4%. CONCLUSIONS there was an increase in consultation rates and a decrease in prescribing among the contributing general practitioners during the 1989 study period compared with the 1988 study period. These changes may be attributed to the introduction of the 1989 health benefits package.