Palliative care within the community requires well coordinated multidisciplinary teamworking, involving both primary and secondary care practitioners. 'Out-of-hours' periods are a potentially problematic time for delivery of high quality care. We report on two national surveys-one of medical directors of out-of-hours general practitioner cooperatives, the other of medical directors of specialist palliative care units. The aim was to describe general practitioners' and specialists' perspectives on the availability and scope of community nursing and specialist palliative care services. The results point to wide variation in service provision within the community. The two groups differed strikingly in their perceptions, the general practitioners being much less positive than the specialists about the availability of specialist advice and admission to specialist units out of hours. Equitable out-of-hours palliative care services of high quality are unlikely to be achieved without dialogue between primary and secondary care based providers, local needs assessment and adequate resourcing.