This study aimed to examine two indices of need, the underprivileged area (UPA) score and a Swedish Care Need Index (CNI, in Swedish vårdbehovsindex) with weightings from British and Swedish GPs respectively, and an index of material deprivation, Townsend score at SAMS (Small Area Market Statistics) level and at municipality level for the whole of Sweden. One third of primary health care physicians from the whole of Sweden received a questionnaire about their workload. CNI, UPA and Townsend scores were calculated using information from the Swedish census of 1990 and the registers of unemployment and migration for 1992. The Swedish GPs weighted some of the variables quite differently from the GPs in the UK. This may be important, especially at the SAMS level. The GPs in both countries considered that older people living alone contributed most to their workload. However, in Sweden the physicians ranked foreign-born people high compared with the English doctors, and in England the GPs ranked children under five years much higher than the doctors in Sweden. The correlation between the scores was high.