The pain of venous cannulation and arterial puncture can be greatly lessened by local anaesthesia. We sought information about the use of local anaesthesia for these procedures by doctors working in medicine, surgery and anaesthetics. A questionnaire was hand-delivered to 178 doctors in eight hospitals, all of whom responded. For insertion of large-bore cannulae, local anaesthesia was used by all the anaesthetists but less than half the medical and surgical doctors. For arterial blood sampling it was used by 60% of anaesthetists and 2% of ward doctors. Previous recommendations to use local anaesthesia seem to have been ignored, and in many instances these procedures are more painful than necessary.