AIM: To develop an assessment tool for the collection of information on carers' needs and to pilot test same. BACKGROUND: No formal assessment of the needs of carers is undertaken by Public Health Nurses (PHNs) in the West of Ireland. METHOD: An assessment tool which took the form of a questionnaire was designed based on an earlier needs analysis, a literature review and qualitative data obtained with carers at two focus groups. Sixty carers were involved in the pilot study of the tool. FINDINGS: Carers found this model made them feel valued, created awareness about the effects of caring and provided them with information. They recommended its introduction. CONCLUSION: The carers and PHNs found the assessment tool to be useful and comprehensive in its approach. However, it requires modification, with specific attention being paid to the validity and reliability of the tool.