[Excerpt from publisher] Concerns about the recruitment and retention of nursing staff are apparent in many healthcare systems. This paper describes a study which used a common methodology to assess nurses' perceptions of their work environment and changes over the past 12 months in the UK and Sweden. A census survey of all qualified nursing staff was undertaken in a large teaching hospital in Sheffield and Jonkoping, Sweden. Analysis of results reveal similar concerns with a perceived fall in the quality of nursing care, and increased demands in terms of workload at a time when staffing levels are being reduced. Although there were common trends, Swedish nurses were far less likely than their English counterparts to feel that they had opportunities to act autonomously, to develop their skills, and to access continuing professional education. The need for remedial action to enhance nurses' work environment and to increase their autonomy is highlighted.