An investigation into practices of the epidural services in a regional sample of obstetric units was undertaken following recent reported disasters associated with epidural analgesia for labour pain. A questionnaire was completed by all 22 obstetric units in the region, which included six teaching, 14 district and two independent centres. In three units the epidural service was shared with the obstetricians. A continuous anaesthetic presence was provided in 16 of 22 units. There was considerable variation in the attendance upon epidural patients by the anaesthetists. Instructions to midwives for top-ups and subsequent care of patients followed no uniform pattern. Midwife in-service training in the initial management of serious epidural complications and in cardiopulmonary resuscitation was inconsistent. In some units, the avoidance of aortocaval compression was not emphasised in the management of serious complications such as severe maternal hypotension, total spinal blockade or cardiac arrest of the parturient. The results obtained in this survey suggest that there is a need to review the requirements in the provision of obstetric epidural services and consideration should be given to the establishment of a generally accepted standard of practice.