Summary Re-admissions have been cited as a measure of critical care quality and outreach teams have recently been introduced to improve critical care delivery. The aim of this study was to examine whether the number, causes and sequence of re-admissions to critical care altered as a result of the introduction of an outreach team. Re-admissions between April 2000 and November 2001 were examined. The reasons for re-admission were classified as (i) same pathology or disease process; (ii) new, but related, pathology; (iii) new and unrelated pathology; (iv) exacerbation of other comorbidities. During the two-year period, a total of 2546 patients were admitted to critical care of which 100 were re-admitted (49 before outreach and 51 after outreach). The reasons for re-admission did not vary before or after the introduction of the outreach team (same pathology 15 vs. 15; new, but related, pathology 17 vs. 23; new, but unrelated, 14 vs. 9; exacerbation of comorbidity 3 vs. 4, respectively, Chi-squared = 2.07, df = 3, p = 0.56). There was also no difference between the duration of stay on the general ward in between the critical care unit admissions before (median 2.93 [interquartile range 1.32–6.05] days) or after (median 2.25 [interquartile range 1.06–6.32] days) the introduction of an outreach team. As we could not detect any change in patterns of re-admissions as a result of the introduction of an outreach team, we would suggest that although outreach is an important development for critical care, its performance should be measured by other parameters.