This study aimed to determine whether the management and survival of patients with lung cancer varied among 26 health authorities in South East England. The Thames Cancer Registry identified patients diagnosed with lung cancer (ICD-10 codes C33-C34) between 1995 and 1999. After excluding death certificate only patients, 32,818 (81%) patients were analysed. The proportions of patients receiving active treatment varied among health authorities between 5 and 17% for non-investigative surgery, 4 and 17% for any chemotherapy, 8 and 30% for any radiotherapy and 15 and 42% for any active treatment. One-year patient survival ranged from 11 to 34%. There was evidence of health authority level variation even after adjusting for case mix. Patients whose first hospital attendance was at a radiotherapy centre were more likely to receive active treatment (OR 1.72, 95% CI 1.21-2.46), chemotherapy (1.38, 1.06-1.79) or radiotherapy (1.86, 1.28-2.71). There was some evidence that patients whose first hospital attendance was at a radiotherapy centre survived longer. This study shows there is geographical inequality in the treatment given to lung cancer patients and patient survival in South East England. There was some evidence to suggest that these inequalities might be explained by variations in access to oncology services. Future studies should investigate the pathways and barriers to specialist care in this condition.