OBJECTIVE--To evaluate whether specialist nurse visits enhance the social integration and perceived health of patients with stroke or alleviate stress in carers in longer term stroke care. DESIGN--Stratified randomised controlled trial; both groups assessed at time of recruitment and at 3, 6, and 12 months. SETTING--Patients with disability related to new stroke who lived in their own homes in the Bradford Metropolitan District. SUBJECTS--240 patients aged 60 years or over, randomly allocated to control group (n = 120) or intervention group (n = 120). Intervention--Visits by specialist outreach nurses over 12 months to provide information, advice, and support; minimum of six visits during the first six months. The control group received no visits. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--The Barthel index (functional ability), the Frenchay activities index (social activity), the Nottingham health profile (perceived health status). Stress among carers was indicated by the general health questionnaire-28 (28 items). The nurses recorded their interventions in trial diaries. RESULTS--There were no significant differences in perceived health, social activities, or stress among carers between the treatment and control groups at any of the assessments points. A subgroup of mildly disabled patients with stroke (Barthel index 15-19) had an improved social outcome at six months (Frenchay activities index, Median difference 3 (95% confidence interval 0 to 6; P = 0.03) and for the full 12 months of follow up (analysis of covariance P = 0.01) compared with the control group. CONCLUSIONS--The specialist nurse intervention resulted in a small improvement in social activities only for the mildly disabled patients. No proved strategy yet exists that can be recommended to address the psychosocial difficulties of patients with stroke and their families.