Changes in the economic climate and the delivery of health care require that pre-operative information programmes are effective and efficiently implemented. In order to be effective the pre-operative programme must meet the information needs of intensive care unit (ICU) patients and their relatives. Efficiency can be achieved through a structured pre-operative programme which provides a framework for teaching. The need to develop an ICU information booklet in a large teaching hospital in Northern Ireland has become essential to provide relevant information and improve the quality of service for patients and relatives, as set out in the White Paper, ‘Working for Patients’, (DoH, 1989). The first step in establishing a patient education programme was to ascertain patients' and relatives' informational needs. A ‘needs assessment’ identified the pre-operative information needs of ICU patients and their relatives (McGaughey, 1994) and the findings were used to plan and publish an information booklet. The ICU booklet provides a structure for pre-operative visits to ensure that patients and relatives information needs are met.