In order to determine the degree to which the recommendations of the report of the joint working party on ‘Pain after Surgery’ by the Royal College of Surgeons of England and the College of Anaesthetists have been implemented, a postal survey was conducted of all hospitals in the United Kingdom where surgery is performed. The number of hospitals with a multidisciplinary acute pain service had significantly increased from 2.8% before September 1990 to 42.7% at the end of 1994. Over the same period there has been an increase in the number of hospitals with a named clinician responsible for acute pain management, from 20 before 1990 to 230 (65.2%) and the number of hospitals with an acute pain nurse has increased from 8 (2.3%) prior to 1990 to 139 (39.3%). Routine assessment of pain and sedation occurs in 82% of hospitals with established acute pain services and in less than 50% of hospitals without an acute pain service. The use of written protocols, the provision of out-of-hours cover and regular training for all staff have increased with time. Research and audit activity related to acute pain management has also improved since 1990.