This paper explores the results of a consensus development exercise that explored diverse perspectives and sought to identify key principles for the development of user involvement in a cancer network. The exercise took place within one of 34 UK cancer networks and was a collaboration between the NHS, two universities and two voluntary sector organizations. The paper explores professionals’ and users’ perspectives on user involvement with reference to the current sociopolitical context of user participation. British policy documents have placed increasing emphasis on issues of patient and public participation in the evaluation and development of health services, and the issue of lay participation represents an important aspect of a critical public health agenda. The project presented here shows that developing user involvement may be a complex task, with lack of consensus on key issues representing a significant barrier. Further, the data suggest that professional responses can partly be understood in relation to specific occupational standpoints and strategies that potentially allow professionals to define and limit users’ involvement. The implications of these findings and the impact of the consensus development process itself are discussed.