In the wake of the disintegration of the policlinical system which had prevailed in the former German Democratic Republic, far-reaching restructuring has become necessary in the "new" German laender in the field of complementary psychiatric care. Establishment throughout the state of Saxony of a uniform outreach-based ambulatory service ranks as a first component towards building regionalized community psychiatric networks. In light of some twenty years of experience in the old laender, this function is considered a task of the Social Psychiatric Services ("Sozialpsychiatrische Dienste", SPDIs). The present study had been directed at a state-wide investigation of the expectations community-practice psychiatrists (n = 165), physicians in psychiatric clinics (n = 95) and staff working in SPDIs (n = 138) in Saxony hold regarding service programmes and operating methods of these newly established service delivery structures. Given the high return rates in this anonymous postal questionnaire study, the findings presented are considered near-representative. A concurrent finding for all of the groups interviewed, expectations concerning the client population to be serviced by the SPDIs focus on the group of persons with chronic mental illness. Also, the expectations expressed concerning major care/therapeutic services to be rendered by the SPDIs concur in their emphasis on a core area of immediately client-oriented SPDI activities. Between the two medical groups, a major difference found is that community-practice psychiatrists more frequently expect high SPDI commitment regarding sociotherapeutic programmes at an institutional level, whereas clinical physicians expect them to focus on taking over medical therapies in the narrower sense. The expectations SPDI staff hold relative to the therapeutic services to be rendered by themselves go beyond the scope of what has so far been implemented in their current activity, and qualitative content analyses are presented in the article for each of the areas concerned. Along with better staffing levels, removal of in-service organizational and further education deficits are identified by SPDI staff as the two main requirements for stabilizing their operations. In order to counter undue burdening of the SPDI with service expectations and to enable a more clear-cut positioning of its programme structures within a complex psychosocial service delivery system, it is necessary--at least in the state of Saxony--that further needs-oriented establishment and/or extension of community-based psychiatric services and agencies take place.