Our objective was to describe how genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics in the North Thames region manage sexually acquired reactive arthritis (SARA), and to compare management with national guidelines. A self-completed questionnaire survey and retrospective case note review was conducted between September and October 2001. Clinicians in 33 clinics were asked to describe their clinic's policy on the management of SARA, and to review the last five cases seen or the last cases seen in the preceding two years, if less than five. Nineteen (58%) clinics took part. There were inter-clinic variations in the investigation and management of patients, with only 63% (12/19) of clinics offering non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and 58% (11/19) giving doxycycline 1001mg. twice daily for two weeks for urethritis - the rest using any of three other antibiotic regimens. There was no consistent policy of referral between other specialties and GUM for genital screening and partner notification. A total of 36 male and female case notes were reviewed. Patients without arthritis or joint swelling (5/38, 13%), or with non-typical symptoms such as diarrhoea (5/38, 13%) were diagnosed inappropriately with SARA. Only 33 (87%) had evidence of a sexually transmitted infection (STI) with at least two (5%) of patients being treated with antibiotics despite no apparent indication being present. Only 21 (55%) had documented NSAID therapy. Case identification was difficult due to the lack of a national disease code (KC60) for SARA. The data suggest that a diagnosis of SARA is sometimes being made with no identifiable STI, or where symptoms are more suggestive that another route of infection is likely. A clear guideline within clinics to standardize prescribing of antibiotics is needed and collaborative policies with GUM are needed for other specialties to use when investigating and managing patients with seronegative arthritis. GUM should consider re-introducing a KC60 code for SARA for better case identification.