Of 1094 patients with a confirmed stroke admitted to Northwick Park, a district general hospital, 364 (33%) died while in hospital, 215 (20%) were fully recovered when discharged, and 329 (30%) were too frail or too ill from diseases other than stroke to be considered for active rehabilitation. Only 121 (11%) were suitable for intensive treatment. They and 12 patients referred direct to outpatients were allocated at random to one of three different courses of rehabilitation. Intensive was compared with conventional rehabilitation and with a third regimen which included no routine rehabilitation, but under which patients were encouraged to continue with exercises taught while in hospital and were regularly seen at home by a health visitor. Progress at three months and 12 months was measured by an index of activities of daily living. Improvement was greatest in those receiving intensive treatment, intermediate in those receiving conventional treatment, and least in those receiving no routine treatment. Decreasing intensity of treatment was associated with a significant increase in the proportions of patients who deteriorated and in the extent to which they deteriorated. Probably only a few stroke patients, mostly men, are suitable for intensive outpatient rehabilitation, but for those patients the treatment is effective and realistic.