The UK has had a pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccination (PPV) programme for groups at higher risk of invasive disease since 1992. This paper presents data from a sample of primary-care practices (Q-RESEARCH) of PPV uptake in patients according to their risk status. Of 2·9 million registered patients in 2005, 2·1% were vaccinated with PPV in the preceding 12 months and 6·5% in the preceding 5 years. Twenty-nine per cent of the registered population fell into one or more risk groups. The proportion of each risk group vaccinated in the previous 5 years ranged from 69% (cochlear implants), 53·4% (splenic dysfunction), 36·5% (chronic heart disease), 34·7% (diabetes), 22·9% (immunosuppressed), 28·7% (chronic renal disease), 15·9% (sickle cell disease) to 12·6% (chronic respiratory disease). Uptake was lower in areas where the non-white proportion of population was >10%. In conclusion, there remain large gaps in the uptake of PPV in several high-risk populations in the United Kingdom. Effective strategies need to be developed to address these deficiencies.