Patients undergoing neurosurgical intervention may require different types of organized rehabilitation. A prospective study was performed of the care needs of neurosurgical inpatients between the ages of 16 and 70 years who were in acute wards for more than 2 weeks. Only 58% of bed occupancy days were devoted to essential acute neurosurgical ward management. This figure was even lower for patients admitted with subarachnoid haemorrhage (36%) or traumatic brain injury (38%). Overall, 21% of bed days would have more appropriately spent in 'rapid access'/acute rehabilitation beds, 13% in 'active participation' rehabilitation beds and 5% in cognitive/behavioural rehabilitation units. Addressing this unmet need would increase the availability of acute neurosurgery beds, without needing to build and staff more neurosurgery wards.