Head and neck cancer care was analysed in 2167 unselected patients for management compliance and outcome. Median age was 55 years, with a male to female ratio of 5.5[ratio ]1. Major sites were oropharynx (32.4 per cent), larynx (19.8 per cent), oral (16.6 per cent) and hypopharynx (12.9 per cent). Stage-wise distribution was I–II=8.9 per cent, III=20.6 per cent and IV=60.3 per cent and unstaged=10.2 per cent. Squamous cell carcinoma was the dominant histology for 90.9 per cent. Clinic-based cancer-directed treatment decisions were made for 1905 patients: curative intent in 53 per cent, palliative in 35 per cent and for the remaining 262 (12 per cent) supportive care. Overall, 1209 (56 per cent) patients complied with the prescribed treatments; 62 per cent, 54 per cent, and 35 per cent of curative, palliative and supportive care intent groups, respectively. Modalities were radiotherapy alone (64.6 per cent), combined surgery with irradiation (17.6 per cent), and chemoradiotherapy (11.2 per cent). Median follow-up periods were 17.5 and three months in curative and palliative groups respectively. Overall, 712 (33 per cent) cases received curative therapy, with three-year disease-specific survival of 49 per cent. Patient compliance was a major obstacle. The comparison of this series with the USA, Canada and Norway showed wide disparities in stage of presentation and survival.