This paper describes a pilot study of the dependence of 20 severely disabled patients on nursing staff in a long-term rehabilitalion ward. Dependence was measured as the number of 15-minute periods spent by a patient in receipt of various categories of nursing care during fixed observation times. Measurements were made by patient activity sampling and were in reasonably good agreement with the results of nurse activity sampling. Severity of disability gradings of the International Classification of Impairments, Disabilities and Handicaps (ICIDH) were adapted to give an overall disability score for each patient. Appropriately summarized numerical data are presented in the form of tables and bar charts. Patient feeding was firmly established as the most time-consuming of the direct nursing care activities. There was also a high statistical correlation between feeding dependence and severity of disability and this finding is discussed at some length.