The majority of hospitalised patients are at risk of venous thrombosis and one in ten hospital deaths are due to pulmonary embolism. A report from the House of Commons Health Committee published in 2005 stated that each year over 25 000 people in England die from venous thromboembolism developing during hospitalisation. The report also stated that, whilst many of these deaths are preventable by thromboprophylaxis, this is not as widely used as it should be. This article reflects on the background prompting the report of the Health Committee and the subsequent response to this, including the publication of a National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence guideline on reducing the risk of venous thromboembolism in patients undergoing surgery and the strategy for venous thrombosis prevention outlined by the Chief Medical Officer for England. It is anticipated that, by 2009, risk assessment will be mandatory for all hospitalised patients in England; the same strategy is likely for the whole UK.