The English government has given a commitment to improving access to health care services for particular groups perceived as being under-served, or served inappropriately, by existing services. In this article four examples of policies aimed at improving access are considered: enhancing the supply of services to under-served areas, changing the organization of services, setting targets to improve access, and empowering people to make choices. Policies aimed at improving access will work only if they address the source of inequities, which means identifying the key barriers to access and these barriers are unlikely to be uniform across sectors, services, and groups of people. Evidence on the success of these four types of intervention in terms of influencing access and equity of access is discussed, borrowing some concepts from the sociological literature that enable us to understand the importance of how barriers to access may arise for different services and different population groups. It is clear that some policies may not work as well as we would hope, or may even exacerbate inequities of access, because they fail to recognize the source of the particular barriers faced by some groups.