Quality assurance (QA) is being hailed as a ‘new frontier’ of nursing. Its diffusion into nursing theory and practice in the United Kingdom is outlined. QA is not an alien import; favourable preconditions already existed. The systems-reasoning of the nursing process, which sprawned a plethora of models, each geared to the ‘orderly’ progression of stages, objectives and process, is resonant with the values and measurement techniques of QA. A major limitation of QA is that it downplays the organizational complexity of hospitals. Although QA is projected as being in the service of clients, its major impetus is concerned with professional self-defence, as regards other professions, the state and litigious clients. Further, QA enlisted by nursing strongly reproduces the ethos and logic of the dominant medical model; patients are ‘objectified’ as the technical products of production. The ‘medical gaze’ is now being joined with the ‘nursing gaze’.