To remain at home, terminally ill cancer patients need good symptom control and support from informal carers. Few studies have explored the influence of informal carers on symptom control and vice versa. This qualitative case study was carried out in a specialist palliative care service (SPCS) to explore the reasons why patients were admitted for inpatient care. Ten patients were systematically selected and the main carer and health professionals involved in their care were invited to participate. Semi-structured, audiotape recorded interviews were conducted and a thematic analysis performed on the transcripts, using the 'Framework' approach. The results highlight the vital role that carers play in the assessment and management of symptoms in the community. However, carers reported difficulties in knowing what to monitor, how to interpret symptoms accurately and when to inform a professional. It was also reported that medication was not taken as it was prescribed and a number of reasons were given.