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Between February and November 1984, 18 registered nursing homes in Edinburgh were visited and information was obtained about their 400 patients. Details of the facilities provided by these homes are presented here. Admission and biographical details were obtained for each patient and the dependency of the nursing home population was determined; 28% of the total population appeared to be independent in self-care, though there were large variations between homes. Forty-two patients (10.5%) were found to be receiving Department of Health and Social Security supplementary benefit. The characteristics of this group are compared with those of the rest of the nursing home population. The implications of these observations and recent legislative developments are discussed.