The study examined healthcare professionals' perspectives of eating disorder patients and services. Qualitative semistructured interviews were conducted with 18 healthcare professionals resulting in two themes. First, the practical difficulties of meeting the complex service needs of people with eating disorders were illustrated. Second, staff recognised patient diversity and the consequent need for individualised interventions. Services are frustrated in meeting patient needs due to complex resource limitations, which do not amount only to lack of funding. Rather than eating disordered patients being viewed as 'difficult', as reported in previous qualitative research, they are only difficult in a context of limited resources. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and Eating Disorders Association.