All 162 consecutive admissions to a multidisciplinary paediatric intensive care unit in the UK have been prospectively evaluated in terms of therapeutic intention, sickness levels, age, utilisation of resources, and outcome. For 101 (62.3%) of the children admitted the aim of treatment was to cure the condition but for 30 (18.5%) ultimately only a palliative option was available. Five children were admitted to avail of specialised monitoring facilities. One half of the children admitted were physiologically unstable. The majority (102, 62.9%) were age 12 months or less. Resource utilisation, which was not affected by therapeutic intention, was greatest for the sickest patients, those age 1 month or less and non-survivors. Mortality rate overall was 17.9%. Mortality was unaffected by age and therapeutic intention and was inversely related to level of sickness. The information provided by this study forms a basis for medical audit within the unit and is essential for meaningful comparisons of standards of care and outcome with other units.