This paper examines to what extent nurses' perceptions of patients' needs correspond to the patients' views of their own needs. A questionnaire was designed to assess patients' emotional and physical needs in general medical wards and in acute psychiatric wards. Sixty patients, 30 psychiatric and 30 general, together with their 'key' nurses, took part in the study. Results indicate that, despite there being no evidence of appreciable disagreement between the 'average' psychiatric nurse and the 'average' psychiatric patient, there is little evidence that individual nurses and their patients, whether psychiatric or general, agree. The nurses' inability to perceive patients' needs on an individual basis is consistent with other studies which suggest that nurses use stereotypes when perceiving patients' needs. Implications for nursing care are discussed.