Aims and objectives. In this article, we critically assess the state of the science of transition care in chronic conditions using diabetes care as an exemplar and provide a case for the adoption of the principles of the Chronic Care Model in driving health care reform. Background. Globally, there is an increasing burden of chronic conditions including among adolescents and young adults. As a consequence adolescents are transitioning, at an increasing rate, from paediatric services into mainstream adult services, which are often ill equipped to meet their needs. Design. Integrative literature review. Methods. An integrative literature review method was used to summarise key issues facing adolescents with chronic illness and generate strategies for improving health care services. Conclusion. Strengthening the capacity for transitioning from a service that is family focused to one with an individual orientation requires a paradigmatic shift and clear identification of roles and responsibilities in the health care system. The absence of empirically developed models of care, in a context of growing need, signals the importance of ongoing discussion, debate and research. Implications for clinical practice. There is a need for a change in philosophical orientation to promote service provision on the basis of need, rather than a model based on diagnosis and chronology. Nurses and other health professionals need to increase their awareness of issues facing adolescents with chronic conditions making the transition to adult health services. © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.