Primary care plays an important role in delivering care to people who are dying. However, providing palliative care to people dying with conditions other than cancer may be more problematic, because it may be more difficult to establish an exact prognosis or to identify their needs. This article draws on qualitative research, which explored the views of health professionals, patients and their carers about care provided at the end of life. Differences between the care of people with cancer and those with end-stage cardiorespiratory disease were found in four main areas: management and progression of disease, communication and information, health care in the community and awareness of dying. The research shows that even in PHCTs (primary health care teams) committed to the delivery of palliative care, people dying with end-stage cardiorespiratory disease are less likely than those with cancer to receive full, and easily understood, information, to be aware that they are dying or to receive district nursing care. There is an increasing call for palliative care to be extended to all, but further work is needed to develop appropriate packages of care for those dying with conditions other than cancer.