The role and professional boundaries of the nurse practitioner (NP) in the UK have not yet been unequivocally defined. This confusion has served to limit the expansion of the NP in both the acute and primary care sectors, despite a mounting body of evidence that attests to their value. This lack of coherence has necessarily impacted upon the educational provision currently available for NP development, with a range of courses of variable nature and standards being provided. The lack of nationally agreed educational criteria and the importance of taking account of local needs, together suggest that a formal training needs analysis might be valuable in systematizing and unifying the present position. Such a survey would have the function of informing both the definition and regional training requirements of NPs, provided the data were obtained through the use of a reliable assessment instrument. To this end a total population survey of all nurses employed in general practice within a large regional health authority was undertaken, using a psychometrically valid and reliable training needs analysis questionnaire. The information obtained provided a preliminary definition of the NP role and a clear index of the content and level of prospective educational provision. In addition, the survey offered an estimate of the numbers of potential participants on NP courses, by FHSA and preferred educational institution. In this way, the use of a scientifically constructed and specifically customized training needs analysis tool may have the potential to inform precise educational commissioning, thereby rationalizing resources and enhancing the quality of both training and ultimate care provision.