It is difficult to define continuity of care or study its impact on health outcomes. This study took place in three stages. In stage I we conducted qualitative research with patients, their close relatives and friends, and their key health professionals from which we derived a number of self completion statements about experienced continuity that were tested for reliability and internal consistency. A valid and reliable 18-item measure of experienced continuity was developed in stage II. In stage III we interviewed 199 patients with cancer up to five times over 12 months to ascertain whether their experiences of continuity were associated with their health needs, psychological status, quality of life, and satisfaction with care. The qualitative data revealed that experienced continuity involved receiving consistent time and attention, knowing what to expect in the future, coping between service contacts, managing family consequences, and believing nothing has been overlooked. Transitions between phases of treatment were not associated with changes in experienced continuity. However, higher experienced continuity predicted lower needs for care, after adjustment for other potential explanatory factors (standardised regression coefficients ranging from -0.12 (95% CI -0.20, -0.05) to -0.32 (95% CI -0.41, -0.23)). Higher experienced continuity may be linked to lower health care needs in the future.