We describe the use of a questionnaire to define the difficulties in providing anaesthesia in Uganda. The results show that 23% of anaesthetists have the facilities to deliver safe anaesthesia to an adult, 13% to deliver safe anaesthesia to a child and 6% to deliver safe anaesthesia for a Caesarean section. The questionnaire identified shortages of personnel, drugs, equipment and training that have not been quantified or accurately described before. The method used provides an easy and effective way to gain essential data for any country or national anaesthesia society wishing to investigate anaesthesia services in its hospitals. Solutions require improvements in local management, finance and logistics, and action to ensure that the importance of anaesthesia within acute sector healthcare is fully recognised. Major investment in terms of personnel and equipment is required to modernise and improve the safety of anaesthesia for patients in Uganda.