The current socio-political philosophy in the United Kingdom promotes the belief that consumers of health care should exercise choice and express opinions about the care they receive. This view challenges the traditional paternalistic approach to health care which espoused that ‘the professional knows best’. In association with general socio-political trends, nursing is undergoing radical reform. The nursing literature widely promotes the importance of a nurse–patient relationship which fosters the involvement of the patient in negotiation and decision-making regarding his care. Nurses who advocate individualized, holistic care must hold such an ideology as a central tenet to their philosophy. However, it is questionable whether this philosophy is widely expressed in the reality of clinical practice. There is also an absence of empirical evidence to support the assumption that patients wish to participate in decision-making. This paper critically reviews some of the debate centred around the concept of nurse–patient negotiation. It is suggested that the issues are complex and that there remains a need for further research which takes into account multiple factors, including the social and organization context of nursing care.