The purpose of this study was to investigate levels of awareness and the perceived risk of contracting methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) amongst patients/visitors and employees of the UK National Health Service (NHS). Differences between the two cohorts were also investigated, particularly sources of information about MRSA. In March 2005, a piloted questionnaire was circulated to 50 patients/visitors and 100 NHS employees (25 doctors, 25 nurses, 25 domestics and 25 porters). No information was returned from porters, but the overall response rate was 67%. There was a high level. of awareness of MRSA among both patients/visitors (94%) and NHS employees (100%). General media was the most common source of information for patients/visitors (68%) compared with 24% of NHS employees (P <0.01). Perceived risk of contracting MRSA was very similar among patients/visitors and NHS employees (34% vs 35%, P > 0.10). Fifty-two percent of doctors felt that they were at risk compared with 13% of domestic employees. In conclusion, this study showed a high level of awareness among the general public and healthcare workers alike. (c) 2005 The Hospital Infection Society. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.