The Mental Health Task Force was set up by the Secretary of State for Health under the leadership of David King to assist in the process of the closure of the large mental hospitals and to ensure adequate provision was made to replace their services. Its strategic objectives, to be accomplished by the end of 1994, were to map the replacement of the remaining large institutions by good quality services, ensuring that this happened effectively; to identify what makes a service good and find ways of ensuring that services possessed these qualities; and to develop a vision of the shape of the mental health market in years to come. To assist in this a wide support group of about 20 people was set up. This included representatives of the Department of Health, Research and Development in Psychiatry, carer organisations, users, social services, general practice, nursing and the Royal College of Psychiatrists. The authors represented the College.