To describe a population-based sample of patients with diabetes and the quality of their care in the canton of Vaud, Switzerland, as a baseline measure for the evaluation of the "Programme cantonal Diabète". We conducted a self-administered paper-based questionnaire survey. Non-institutionalised adult (aged ≥18 years) patients with diabetes diagnosed for at least 1 year and residing in the canton of Vaud were recruited by community pharmacies. Women with gestational diabetes, people with obvious cognitive impairment or people not sufficiently fluent in French were excluded. Primary outcomes were recommended processes-of-care and outcomes of care (glycosylated haemoglobin [HbA1c], generic and disease-specific health-related quality of life (HRQoL), overall care score in relation to the Chronic Care Model). Other measures included diabetes education, self-management support and self-efficacy, health status, health behaviour and demographics. A total of 519 patients with diabetes were included. Whereas the mean HbA1c level was 7.3% (n = 177, 95% confidence interval 7.1-7.5), diabetes-specific processes-of-care and influenza vaccination were reported by less than two-thirds of the patients. Physical activity and diet recommendations results mirrored patients' difficulties with their management in daily life and diabetes-specific HRQoL was worst in the dimensions relative to diet (eating and drinking) and sex life. A minority of patients reported ever having participated in diabetes education courses (32.8%). Overall, patients were satisfied with their care and the support they received. This study provides a broad picture of the experiences of people living with diabetes in the canton of Vaud. It shall guide the development of targeted interventions within the "Programme cantonal Diabète".