Objectives: To determine the extent to which general practitioners (GPs) were aware of a recent significant event and whether a structured analysis of this event was undertaken to minimise the perceived risk of recurrence. Design: Cross sectional survey using a postal questionnaire. Setting: Greater Glasgow primary care trust. Participants: 466 principals in general practice from 188 surgeries. Main outcome measures: GPs' self-reported personal and practice characteristics, awareness of a recent significant event, participation in the structured analysis of the identified significant event, perceived chance of recurrence, forums for discussing and analysing significant events, and levels of primary care team involvement. Results: Four hundred and sixty six GPs (76%) responded to the survey. GPs from single handed practices were less likely to respond than those in multi-partner training and non-training practices. 401 (86%) reported being aware of a recent significant event; lack of awareness was clearly associated with GPs from non-training practices. 219 (55%) had performed all the necessary stages of a structured analysis (as determined by the authors) of the significant event. GPs from training practices were more likely to report participation in the structured analysis of the recent event, to perceive the chance of this event recurring as "nil" or "very low", and to report significant event discussions taking place. Conclusions: Most GPs were aware or a recent significant event and participated in the structured analysis of this event. The wider primary care team participated in the analysis process where GPs considered this involvement relevant. There is variation in the depth of and approach to significant event analysis within general practice, which may have implications for the application of the technique as part of the NHS quality agenda.