The Audit Commission's (1994) report Finding a Place states that mental health problems are a major cause of disruption and difficulty in people's lives and that in any one year more than a quarter of all people suffer to some degree. The report asserts that the majority visit their general practitioner (GP) and less than half of the people concerned are recognized as having a mental health problem. Many recover over a period of weeks or months and are best served by community services. Only those with the most serious conditions need specialized care or admission to hospital. On a local level in Northern Ireland, the policy of reducing the number of long-stay patients began in the 1960s with a call for people with mental illness to be integrated into the community. This has had major implications for community mental health services and for community psychiatric nursing. The aim of this study into one community psychiatric nursing service (CPNS) in Northern Ireland is to inform managers and professionals about the nature and shape of this service and to facilitate wider discussion on how to plan and deliver it in the future.