The Prostate Cancer Risk Management Programme (PCRMP) launched in November 2002 provides guidelines for general practitioners (GPs) on age-specific prostate-specific antigen (PSA) cutoff levels in asymptomatic men. The impact of the PCRMP on GP referrals is unknown. This study investigates whether there was a change in the proportion of asymptomatic men with raised PSA levels (⩾3 ng ml−1) who were referred to urologists since the launch of the guidelines. Sixty-nine general practices in four areas of England and the main pathology laboratory in each area, which had participated in our previous research, were asked to provide data. Forty-eight practices (70%) provided retrospective data on urological referrals in men who had a PSA test taken in the periods 1 December 2001 to 31 May 2002 (pre-launch) and 1 December 2003 to 31 May 2004 (post-launch). Data on referrals were completed for 709 (79%) out of 898 and 1040 (90%) out of 1157 raised records pre- and post-launch, respectively. The percentage of men with raised PSA levels who were asymptomatic was similar in both time periods (19–20%) and the proportion referred to urologists according to the PCRMP guidelines did not increase significantly over time (24% pre-launch and 29% post-launch, P=0.42). The referral rate was lower than expected if the guidelines had been followed. The influence of the guidelines seems to have been low. At the time of data collection, 56% (112 out of 200) of GP partners reported that they were aware of receiving the PCRMP pack. To ensure future, effective implementation of guidelines requires evaluation.