There is little information available about the characteristics of patients admitted to geriatric units with high and low turnover rates of patients. It is often suggested that high turnover units do not admit the more physically disabled person. This study set out to investigate whether this view is true. Six geriatric units with different patient discharge rates were investigated. Those units with a high turnover of patients tend to admit more severely immobile people per bed, when compared to those units with below average throughput. Although these immobile people admitted to high turnover units suffered a higher mortality rate, a significantly greater proportion regained the ability to transfer themselves independently from bed to chair and to the toilet.