There is considerable debate about the appropriateness of allocating health care resources on the basis of the size of the health improvement that they generate. The aim of this study was to elicit the general public's views about the extent to which health gain matters vis-a-vis other considerations. A total of 60 respondents took part in group discussions designed to enable them to raise, discuss, and reflect upon, different arguments. The qualitative data showed that many responses were being generated by factors that were not directly included in the questions, and so it is difficult to meaningfully interpret the results of other studies which have asked similar questions but which have not looked at the reasons underlying the responses. However, a clear message did come through from the data; namely, that equality of access should prevail over the maximization of benefits. However, this was subject to the outcome constraint that treatments are sufficiently effective. An important question for future research, then is 'how effective do treatments have to be for the principle of equal access to apply?'