OBJECTIVES: The ABN has published standards of care for patients with acute neurological disease. Derriford Hospital provides a 24 hour neurology intake service to a population of 500,000 with the equivalent of four consultants, three specialist registrars (SpRs), and four senior house officers (SHOs) with a 37 bed ward. The authors undertook a prospective study of all neurology admissions to enable calculation of manpower necessary to meet the ABN guidelines. METHODS: All admissions to the neurology department were analysed prospectively for a three month period (March to May 2002). RESULTS: There were 629 admissions (equating to 2500 per year); data were collected for 93%. 78% of admissions were emergency, 16% elective. The mean number of neurology inpatients at any time was 76, with three (4%) being elective. The main diagnostic categories were stroke (29%), headache syndrome (13%), and epilepsy or seizures (12%). With regard to emergency admissions, 94% were seen by a neurology SHO within 6 hours and 81% by an SpR or consultant within 24 hours. Twenty five percent of emergency admissions were not seen by a consultant. 55% of patients were cared for on non-neurological wards for their entire admission. Median length of stay for stroke patients was 9.5 days, compared with 4 days for other patients. 37% of patients received a neurology follow up appointment. Currently each SpR spends 18 hours per week involved in the care of acute neurology admissions. CONCLUSION: Meeting the ABN guidelines will require an increase in total neurology bed provision to at least 15 per 100,000 population, with the equivalent of 3 consultant sessions (11 hours/week). Meeting the European Working Time Directive will require a minimum of 8-10 SpRs working a full shift system, which will have a significant impact on training and other aspects of service delivery.