Background Psoriasis is a life-long inflammatory condition that can impact on quality of life, psychological and social functioning. Previous literature suggests patient dissatisfaction with psoriasis management; however, little is known about people's specific experiences of health care consultations. Objectives The study aimed to explore in depth the perspectives of people living with psoriasis including coping responses, self-care strategies and how consultations with health care professionals in both primary and secondary care are experienced. Methods Qualitative semistructured interviews were carried out with a diverse sample of 29 people with psoriasis generated purposively and recruited from community sources in North West England. Interviews were coded using Framework Analysis to produce a thematic framework incorporating key emerging issues and concepts. Results Participants experienced psoriasis as a complex condition involving physical, psychological and social challenges, as well as issues of control, but perceived that these were largely unacknowledged by practitioners in health care consultations. Practitioners were perceived as lacking knowledge and expertise in the management of psoriasis, lacking empathy with the effects of psoriasis and failing to manage it as a long-term condition. This perceived lack of support resulted in some participants withdrawing from conventional health service providers and seeking alternative sources of help. Conclusions Psoriasis needs to be recognized and managed as a complex long-term condition with emotional and social needs that are addressed alongside appropriate diagnosis and regular reviews of treatments which may involve referrals to specialist care. © 2012 The Authors. BJD © 2012 British Association of Dermatologists.