There is an increasing trend in undergraduate education towards teaching clinical skills from a community base. A new clinical curriculum was introduced in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1995, beginning with an integrated clinical skills course. Although the attitudes and views of general practitioners (GPs) towards community-based clinical teaching have previously been reported, their perceived training needs have not been formally identified. The aims of this study were to identify the competencies needed by GPs for community-based clinical skills teaching, to compare and contrast these needs with their hospital colleagues, and to use the results to develop a teaching programme for the clinical tutors involved in the new course. In order of priority, the GPs and hospital tutors expressed similar needs: small-group teaching skills, assessing student needs, giving effective feedback and assessment of student performance, with a preference for the teaching to be organized within local teaching units. Most GPs and hospital tutors (73 and 69%, respectively) requested a distance-learning pack to complement the teaching. General practitioners rated resources for improving their individual clinical skills more highly than their hospital colleagues: for example, videotapes demonstrating examination techniques. Forty-six per cent of GP tutors had received some formal training in teaching methods compared to 29% of hospital tutors. The implications of the results for developing a 'Teaching the Teachers' course for clinical tutors are discussed.