Polycythaemia vera (PV) is a chronic blood cancer; its clinical features are dominated by myeloproliferation (erythrocytosis, often leucocytosis and/or thrombocytosis) and a tendency for thrombosis and transformation to myelofibrosis or acute myeloid leukaemia. In the past 10 years the pathophysiology of this condition has been defined as JAK/STAT pathway activation, almost always due to mutations in JAK2 exons 12 or 14 (JAK2 V617F). In the same time period our understanding of the optimal management of PV has expanded, most recently culminating in the approval of JAK inhibitors for the treatment of PV patients who are resistant or intolerant to therapy with hydroxycarbamide. It has also been demonstrated that life expectancy for many patients with PV is not normal, nor is their quality of life. We critically explore these findings and discuss their impact. In addition, we highlight persisting gaps in our current management strategy; for example, what is the optimal first line cytoreductive therapy and, indeed, which patients need cytoreductive drugs.