Research to develop tools to assess the ecological status of phytobenthos, as required in Annex V of the European Union Water Framework Directive, has focussed largely on diatoms. Diatoms are often the most abundant and diverse group of algae within the phytobenthos and have been used widely for other monitoring purposes. However, there is little empirical justification for the use of diatoms as proxies for the wider phytobenthos. In this paper, we re-examine an existing dataset compiled largely from littoral samples from standing waters in the English Lake District and compared transfer functions for total phosphorus, dissolved inorganic carbon, conductivity and calcium concentration generated from diatoms and non-diatoms separately and together. The results show that transfer functions generated from diatoms alone are as powerful as transfer functions generated from diatoms and non-diatoms combined, while transfer functions generated from non-diatoms alone are less effective. These results provide support for the use of diatoms as proxies for phytobenthos when ecological status is being assessed.