PURPOSE: Holistic needs assessment is a key recommendation in improving supportive and palliative care in adults with cancer. The Patients Concerns Inventory (PCI) is a holistic needs assessment tool designed for head and neck cancer survivors in outpatient setting. Routine screening of potential unmet needs in a clinic may result in increased onward referrals, thus placing a burden on existing healthcare services. The aim of this study was to compare the referral trends following consultation in the time periods before and after introduction of PCI in an oncology outpatient clinic. METHOD: A cross-sectional cohort of disease-free survivors of oral/oropharyngeal cancers of a single consultant was prospectively exposed to PCI from July 2007 to April 2009. The PCI is a self-completed questionnaire consisting of 55 items of patient needs/concern and a list of multidisciplinary professionals, whom patients may wish to talk to or be referred to. Retrospective analysis of referral patterns from clinic letters in two periods in the pre-PCI and post-PCI exposure was performed. Prospective analysis of consultations was performed to determine the outcome of PCI-highlighted items. RESULTS: There was no change in the prevalence of onward referral with the introduction of PCI, i.e. 21 referrals per 100 patients seen in outpatients. However, the proportion of referrals to oral rehabilitation and psychological support increased. Referrals to certain services, e.g. speech and language and dentistry, remained consistently in demand. Many PCI-highlighted needs were dealt in a clinic with by the consultant and/or other professionals during a multidisciplinary consultation. CONCLUSIONS: Routine use of PCI promotes target efficiency by directing and apportioning appropriate services to meet the needs for supportive care of head and neck cancer survivors.