AIMS: To survey blood culture methods in use in the United Kingdom. METHODS: A questionnaire was distributed to the 415 United Kingdom laboratories participating in the clinical bacteriology subscheme of the UK National External Quality Assessment Scheme for Microbiology. RESULTS: Two hundred and eighty seven laboratories completed the questionnaire. The responses indicated wide variations in methods used including considerable differences among laboratories using the same basic methods. The most widely used techniques were the Bactec and conventional broth systems. CONCLUSIONS: Although many published comparisons have failed to show that any basic method is outstandingly successful in the isolation of all organisms, there is evidence that several factors can contribute to good performance. In some laboratories suboptimal conditions were in use. The variations in technique probably reflect differences in practical suitability of a system for any particular laboratory, costs, and personal preferences.