This paper reports the findings of a study which was carried out to evaluate the educational preparation of cancer and palliative care nurses in England. The study was carried out in three stages and covered the following areas; documentary analysis of curriculae, assessment of practice, patients and professionals views of threshold and expert practice. The findings suggested that although there was widespread compliance with a national standard for cancer nursing, this was not the case for palliative care nursing. There was uncertainty about what should be assessed in practice and ambiguity about what was actually assessed. Partnership with children and their parents, clinical skills, multi-disciplinary working, and personal attributes were the main foci for expectations of threshold practice but an expert panel had difficulty in describing the attributes of higher level practice. The paper also describes how some of recommendations from the study are being taken forward in current policy and practice.