Contact with patients plays a fundamental role in the education of healthcare students. Despite advances in simulation using models or actors playing the role of patients, there is no adequate substitute for contact with real patients suffering from real illnesses. There is increasing interest in the role of the expert patient in curriculum development or direct student teaching.1 This approach is of particular benefit in chronic illness where it is possible to draw on the experiences of a population of patients with stable disease and often with a detailed understanding of their own condition. While this approach is valuable the majority of patient–student interactions will continue to be with patients who have not been selected or trained as instructors. In most cases this will be in the context of the on-going clinical care of the patient although some patients may agree to attend as subjects for planned teaching sessions.