© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2019. Re-use permitted under CC BY. Published by BMJ. OBJECTIVE: To explore patients' and General Practitioners' (GPs) accounts of how responsibility for follow-up was perceived and shared in their experiences of cancer safety netting occurring within the past 6 months. DESIGN: In-depth interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim. Data were analysed through an abductive process, exploring anticipated and emergent themes. Conceptualisations of 'responsibility' were explored by drawing on a transactional to interdependent continuum drawing from the shared decision-making literature. SETTINGS AND PARTICIPANTS: A purposive sample of 25 qualified GPs and 23 adult patients in Oxfordshire, UK. RESULTS: The transactional sharing approach involves responsibility being passed from GP to patient. Patients expected and were willing to accept responsibility in this way as long as they received clear guidance from their GP and had capacity. In interdependent sharing, GPs principally aimed to reach consensus and share responsibility with the patient by explaining their rationale, uncertainty or by stressing the potential seriousness of the situation. Patients sharing this responsibility could be put at risk if no follow-up or timeframe was suggested, they had inadequate information, were falsely reassured or their concerns were not addressed at re-consultation. CONCLUSION: GPs and patients exchange and share responsibility using a combination of transactional and interdependent styles, tailoring information based on patient characteristics and each party's level of concern. Clear action plans (written where necessary) at the end of every consultation would help patients decide when to re-consult. Further research should investigate how responsibility is shared within and outside the consultation, within primary care teams and with specialist services.