Educational commissioning was introduced into nursing and non-medical education in the mid 1990s. However, little research has been undertaken to explore its effect on continuing professional education despite early concerns that it could have a negative impact, especially in relation to more specialist provision such as that required by nurses delivering cancer and palliative care. The in-depth, qualitative study reported in this paper examined the commissioning process and how it was perceived by key stakeholders in one Workforce Development Confederation and the two universities which provided the education for practitioners throughout a local Cancer Network. The study identified failure to address educational needs accurately because too little attention was given to training needs analysis at the level of National Health Service Trusts. Commissioning was dominated by the need to demonstrate value for money at the expense of educational innovation and there was scope for improving communication between stakeholders. In addition scope existed for better collaboration between the two provider universities. Although all respondents voiced the similar criticisms, lecturers, service managers and Trust education leads were more able to suggest solutions to problems than education managers because of their awareness of service needs and the requirements of individual practitioners. The findings of this study cannot be generalised beyond the Cancer Network in which it took place. However, they clearly indicate possible weaknesses in the commissioning process which should be explored in greater depth, in relation to continuing professional education for specialist and non-specialist areas of practice.