The policy and health service background to this discussion are the radical changes in cancer services currently underway in the wake of the Calman-Hine Report and the wider changes ushered in by the NHS and Community Care Act 1990 (UK). Using the changing face of hospice care as the focus, the authors explore some of the potential issues and dilemmas involved in providing supportive care for cancer patients and their families. Three 'themes', or areas of concern, are highlighted: links between services, changing organizational factors, and increasing 'medical imperialism'. Potential benefits and drawbacks of the changing ethos and organizational structures are discussed. Interview data are used as 'triggers' for the presentation of the authors' own reflections on developments in the hospice and cancer services' arenas. The paper draws on interview data collected in the pilot phase of a 3-year study on the psycho-social needs of cancer patients and their informal carers in north-west England. Twenty-nine interviews were conducted with a range of professionals involved in the provision of cancer services in Lancaster and Kendal. In the spirit of 'gathering thoughts' and facilitating debate, a commentary on developments in the hospice sector is offered rather than any firm conclusion.