Background: Bronchiectasis is poorly characterised in secondary care. Methods: Over 6 months, 410 bronchiectasis patients attended our clinics. One hundred randomly selected patients were characterised in detail. Results: Patients had a mean and standard error of mean (S.E.M.) age of 57 (2) years and a median and interquartile range (IQR) of three (two to four) reviews in the last 12 months. Aetiologies identified included tuberculosis (n=15), childhood pneumonia (n=7), fibrosis (n=6), connective tissue disease (n=6), whooping cough (n=5), childhood measles (n=4) and others (n=5). There was widespread use of inhaled therapy. Treatments included oral antibiotics (n=77), corticosteroid courses (n=27) and intravenous antimicrobials (n=27, 12 domicillary) in the last year. Thirty patients had hospital admissions (13 because of the inability to administer domicillary antibiotics). Haemophilus influenzae and Pseudomonas spp. were the commonest bacterial isolates. Patients culturing Pseudomonas spp. were older and had had more reviews and intravenous antibiotic courses. Conclusions: Bronchiectasis imposes a considerable burden on hospital services. Patients culturing Pseudomonas spp. impose a greater burden. Aetiology is often unknown. Therapies with unproven benefit are often used.