Objectives To compare patients' enablement and satisfaction after teaching and non-teaching consultations. To explore patients' views about the possible impact that increased community based teaching of student doctors in their practice may have on the delivery of service and their attitudes towards direct involvement with students.Design Observational study using validated survey instruments (patient enablement index-PET, and consultation satisfaction questionnaire-CSQ) administered after teaching consultations and non-teaching consultations. Ten focus groups (two from each practice), comprising five with patients participating in prearranged teaching sessions and five with patients not participating in these.Setting Five general practices in west Suffolk and southern Norfolk, England, that teach student doctors on the Cambridge graduate medical course.Participants 240 patients attending teaching consultations (response rate 82%,196 patients) and 409 patients attending non-teaching consultations (response rate 72%, 294 patients) received survey instruments. Ten focus groups with a total of 34 patients participating in prearranged teaching sessions and 20 patients not participating in these.Main outcome measures Scores on the patient enablement index and consultation satisfaction questionnaire, analysed at the level of all patients, allowing for age, sex, general practitioner, and practice, and at the level of the individual general practitioner teacher. Qualitative analysis of focus group data.Results Patients' enablement or satisfaction was not reduced after teaching consultations compared with non-teaching consultations (mean difference in scores on the patient enablement index and consultation satisfaction questionnaire with adjustment for confounders 2.24% and 1.70%, respectively). This held true for analysis by all patients and by general practitioner teacher. Qualitative data showed that patients generally supported the teaching of student doctors in their practice. However, this support was conditional on receiving sufficient information about reasons for doctors' absence, the characteristics of students, and the nature of teaching planned. Many patients viewed their general practice as different from hospital and expected greater control over students' presence during their consultations.Conclusions Patients' enablement and satisfaction are not impaired by students' participation in consultations. Patients generally support the teaching of student doctors in their general practice but expect to be provided with sufficient information and to have a choice about participation, so they can give informed consent. Recognising this when organising general practice based teaching is important.