The outcome in 1017 patients with haematemesis and malaena referred to two major hospitals in Nottingham within a 2-year period has been prospectively evaluated. Ninety one (9%) patients died during the time period under consideration and all but four were found to have been over 60 years of age. There were 13 (14%) deaths following rebleeding, of whom 5 (5%) could have been potentially avoided by alterations in management. Some improvement of mortality might result from intensive-care facilities with better management of transfusions and earlier detection of rebleeding allowing earlier endoscopy or surgery. The majority of patients (81%), however, died from concomitant disease which was exacerbated by gastrointestinal haemorrhage or bleeding developed in patients with an already existing end-stage disease. These results show that a reduction of mortality in patients with gastrointestinal bleeding is hampered by the high number of poor-risk patients. The rise in the proportion of elderly patients with this disorder seems to continue.