This paper reports the substantive findings of a study that examined the feasibility of using postal questionnaires to assess the satisfaction of lay caregivers with the care received in the community by those dying of cancer. The focus of the analysis was the quality of information provided by health professionals, health services used in the final year of the dying person's life and the lay carer's views about the quality of these services. The study was a retrospective survey of lay carers identified from death certificates over a 9-month period. Of the 355 people contacted, 156 completed the questionnaires, a 44% response rate. The results of the survey indicate that information provision was deemed unsatisfactory by a large proportion of respondents, and that dissatisfaction with care received from hospital, the district nursing service and the general practitioner was common. Levels of satisfaction with care were clearly related to a range of service factors. Our survey also highlighted clear differences in the perceived quality of specialist and generic services for those dying of cancer. A comparison of the findings from this postal study with those reported in earlier retrospective interview surveys of lay carers suggests that the use of the postal questionnaire is a valid and cost-effective approach for assessing quality of care. The data provide baseline information against which improvements in the quality of care can be measured.