The aim of the study was describe the experiences, needs and preferences of recent inpatients of a rehabilitation centre, and the needs of their families. Data were collected in four focus groups, two with patients (n = 13) who had recently completed inpatient rehabilitation following an illness, injury or elective surgery, and two with family members (n = 11). During the focus groups, two researchers facilitated discussion on any topic that participants considered important to the experience of inpatient rehabilitation; participants were encouraged to describe their care, needs and preferences. The focus group discussions were audio-taped and transcribed verbatim. Field notes were hand recorded. Data were analysed and collated into themes. Six key themes emerged. Participants wanted: interactions with friendly, empathetic staff; regular contact with senior staff and all staff to introduce themselves by name and profession; timely communication of accurate information; and rehabilitation services seven days a week. The physical environment had both positive and negative effects on patient well-being. Patients with complex or atypical circumstances required special attention to ensure their needs were met. In conclusion, patients and families identified six important issues that need to be considered during inpatient rehabilitation.