This paper describes a modified version of the MRC Needs for Care Schedule (the Cardinal Needs Schedule), for measuring needs for psychiatric and social care amongst patients with severe psychiatric disorders. The modified schedule has three new features: (i) it is quick and easy to use; (ii) it takes systematic account of the views of patients and their carers; (iii) it defines and identifies need in a way that is concise and easy to interpret. The paper describes why the three new features were considered necessary, and then gives an overview of the structure of the Cardinal Needs Schedule, together with a description of how the three new features were developed. During a study of social services care management the practicality of the modified schedule was investigated and further data were obtained on the reliability and validity of the standardized approach to measuring need, in domains not previously investigated. Because of its speed and simplicity, the Cardinal Needs Schedule offers a new choice to researchers who wish to use a standardized and practical assessment of need in evaluative studies of community care. Examples of the usage of the modified schedule are given in an Appendix.