Qualitative methods are increasingly recognized as valuable, yet practitioners face difficult decisions in their choice of method and the process of analysis. The nominal group technique combines quantitative and qualitative data collection in a group setting, and avoids problems of group dynamics associated with other group methods such as brainstorming, Delphi and focus groups. Idea generation and problem solving are combined in a structured group process, which encourages and enhances the participation of group members. The stages involved in conducting a nominal group are described, and practical problems of its use in a health care setting are discussed with reference to a study of the priorities of care of diabetic patients, carers and health professionals. Some potential applications of the technique in audit and exploratory research are also outlined.