AIM: To evaluate the experience of nursing respite care in families caring for children with complex health needs. METHOD: Seven mothers took part in semi-structured, in-depth interviews, which were taped, transcribed and coded. Results were categorised thematically. FINDINGS: Families described a positive impact on all aspects of life, the high value of respite care and the preference for more information, flexibility, choice and co-ordination of the different services. CONCLUSION: Respite care is highly beneficial to family life, but there need to be clearer communication lines and a stable, flexible and adequately resourced workforce. Families value a single point of contact and would prefer more respite care to be available.