In a questionnaire survey in England of 1221 practising nurses, midwives and health visitors, 18 key characteristics of optimum practice, made up from 77 sub-item categories, were identified by respondents Five open-ended questions asked respondents to consider various aspects of optimum practice and to comment on factors which encouraged those in practice to deliver care of the highest quality Consensus of view was obtained through a Delphi approach The researchers offer commentary on the implications of this research for commissioners, providers and the professions and suggest action for those concerned with the provision of health care