OBJECTIVE: To compare the changes in pre- and post-operative symptom scores with changes in Nottingham health profile (NHP) scoring, and thus determine whether NHP scoring offers a reliable assessment of outcome after transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP), and whether NHP scoring could usefully supplement the more traditional method of symptom scoring in this assessment. PATIENTS AND METHODS: An 8-month audit of 1396 TURPs, involving 12 hospital sites, was performed in the Northern region between April 1 and November 31, 1991. A cohort of 371 of these patients, for whom pre- and post-operative NHPs and irritative and obstructive voiding symptoms had been recorded, were investigated. RESULTS: There was a significant decrease in both obstructive and irritative voiding symptom scores 3 months after TURP and a significant fall in the NHP scores for all stations except social isolation. There were significantly higher irritative symptom scores both before and after operation in men with prostate cancer compared with those with benign prostatic hypertrophy, and significantly higher post-operative obstructive symptom scores in men with prostate cancer. However, there were no significant differences in the pre- and post-operative NHP scores for these two subgroups of patients. In patients who had a good outcome on symptom scoring, there was a significant reduction in NHP scores for all stations except social isolation. However, in those patients who had a poor outcome on symptom score, there was no correlation with changes in the NHP scores, with some NHP stations showing a significant reduction after operation. CONCLUSION: NHP quality-of-life scoring cannot replace symptom scoring in the assessment of outcome after TURP and when used alone, added little further information. However, for a comprehensive assessment of outcome, symptom scores and quality-of-life assessments should be used together.