The work of a nurse practitioner was compared with that of a general practitioner. Both were equally available to the same patient population over the same period. The nurse practitioner saw a similar age and sex distribution of patients to the doctor but saw different types of problems. More of the patients she saw were for followup of chronic diseases, health advice and screening measures while fewer were acutely ill. The doctor dealt with four times as many patients. The nurse practitioner managed 78% of her consultations without referral to a doctor, and 89% without resorting to prescribed drugs. There was a high level of patient satisfaction with her work and 97% of the patients who saw the nurse would choose to consult her again. The role of the nurse practitioner in our practice has developed differently from a similar post in another setting, thus emphasizing the need for flexibility when defining the role.Nurse practitioners are a valuable extra resource for the development of new areas of care, rather than a cheaper substitute for a general practitioner.