We investigated the frequency and characteristics of patients with haematological malignancies (HMs) who were, or were not, referred for specialist palliative care (SPC). Data were abstracted from hospital records of 108 patients who died - 27 with leukaemia, 11 with myelodysplastic syndromes, 48 with lymphoma and 22 with myeloma. Ninety-three patients (86.1%) were >60 years of age at diagnosis, with 33 (30.6%) being >or=80 years and 31 (28.7%) having existing comorbidities. Thirty-three patients (30.6%) were referred to SPC services. There was little difference by age or HM diagnosis in referred patients. Seventeen of 67 patients (25.4%) dying on a hospital ward received SPC compared with 6/7 (85.7%) dying at home. Time between diagnosis and death influenced the referral - 24/52 patients (46.2%) dying >or=30 days after diagnosis received SPC compared with 8/42 (19.1%) dying within 30 days. In 14 patients, HM diagnosis was confirmed after death. Identification of these 14 patients is likely to be a unique feature of our study, as patients were selected from a regional, population-based register with centralized diagnostic services, enabling the identification of all patients with HM. The interface between curative and palliative treatment in HM is more complex than the National Institute for Clinical Excellence recommendations suggest.