There has been a wealth of guidance from both policy-makers ( Department of Health, (DoH) 1991, DoH 1997a, DoH 1997b) and other interested parties ( Audit Commission 1993, British Paediatric Association 1993, Paediatric Intensive Care Society 1992) regarding how and where care should be provided for critically ill children. Latest recommendations indicate that designated general ICUs will continue to provide care for children requiring life support and that all general ICUs will need to initiate such care ( DoH 1997a). The literature relating to how nurses identify and act on the needs of the critically ill child has been anecdotal in nature ( Green 1991, Purcell 1993), whilst published studies focus on comparing outcomes ( Pollock et al 1991) and addressing the needs of parents ( Farrell & Frost 1992, Kasper & Nyamathi 1988). This paper explores the literature regarding the needs of the critically ill child, incorporating the role of parents and previous studies exploring needs. The findings of a modified Delphi study exploring the needs of the critically ill child are also outlined.