We sent a short postal questionnaire to 244 centres in England and Wales that admitted patients with cardiac conditions. In total, 199 (81%) of the centres claimed to provide a cardiac rehabilitation service. Of these, 25 were randomly selected as a representative sample and visited in order to obtain detailed information concerning the provision of services. Most (18 (72%)) of the centres had commenced their rehabilitation programme within the previous 5 years, usually at the instigation of interested staff. Patient entry to cardiac rehabilitation programmes was restricted; women (who represented only 15% of attenders), elderly people (excluded in 10 (40%) centres), and those with more complex problems, such as angina or heart failure, were under-represented. The central components of all programmes were education and exercise training but there was a wide range in the quantity and quality of service provision. Most (22 (88%)) programmes were hospital out-patient based, one (4%) was hospital in-patient based, one (4%) was community-based and one (4%) was home-based. The staffing and funding of programmes was variable, with 7 (28%) having no identified funding. There are wide variations in the resources currently available for the rehabilitation of patients with coronary heart disease. There is a need for clearer direction of these services, in particular to determine minimum service provision. Guidelines are necessary to give a framework for this relatively new and rapidly expanding service.