Herpes simplex encephalitis may be underdiagnosed in Britain. We report eight patients treated at one hospital over three years. Fever, impaired consciousness or focal neurological signs were seen in all patients at presentation but herpes simplex encephalitis was rarely considered as the initial diagnosis. The electroencephalogram was the only initial investigation that was abnormal in each case and was the most useful test in establishing a clinical diagnosis. The diagnosis was confirmed by laboratory methods in each case. Following acyclovir treatment five patients were able to resume normal activities, one patient has moderate disability and two patients died. Three patients showed clinical evidence of relapse but two improved after further treatment with acyclovir. Herpes simplex encephalitis is a treatable condition and should be considered in all patients presenting with fever and neurological signs. The electroencephalogram is usually abnormal and the changes may be characteristic of the condition.