Alternative systems of care after operations for varicose veins or hernia were compared in a total of 360 selected patients, of whom 121 were allocated to be managed in an acute ward for 48 h, 122 in a convalescent hospital for 48 h and 117 to be discharged directly home to the care of the district nursing sister and general practitioner. There were no deaths or major complications. Anaesthetic or surgical problems caused 5 patients (3 convalescent and 2 day care) to be retained in hospital on the day of operation. Minor complications were recorded in approximately one-third of the patients. The majority of these were effectively dealt with by the district nursing sister and only one-third of the complications needed the attention of the general practitioner. Two of the ward patients and 1 of the convalescent patients required readmission to hospital (1 per cent in all). No significant difference was demonstrated in the medical outcome between the three groups after operation. Day care was the most economical of the three systems of care. Inquiry into the patients' opinions elicited the highest proportion of favourable responses in the day care group.