NHS waiting times for elective and cancer treatment Contents


In England, patients have the right to receive consultant-led elective (or non-urgent) treatment within 18 weeks of their referral (usually by a GP). For patients urgently referred for suspected cancer, they have the right to a first outpatient appointment within two weeks. To ensure patients’ rights, the Department of Health and Social Care (the Department) has set performance standards for the percentage of patients to be treated within the maximum time a patient should wait for treatment. For example, 92% of patients should wait no more than 18 weeks for their elective treatment from the date of their referral (if treatment is needed), and 93% of patients should be seen by a cancer specialist within two weeks of being urgently referred by a GP for suspected cancer. The NHS has also pledged that 85% of patients who are subsequently diagnosed with cancer should be treated within 62 days of the date of their original referral, normally by their GP.

The Department holds NHS England to account for national performance against these standards. In turn, NHS England holds clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) to account for meeting the standards for their local populations. CCGs are responsible for enforcing waiting times standards through contracts with service providers, mostly NHS trusts and foundation trusts. NHS Improvement regulates and supports trusts to achieve waiting times standards.

Published: 12 June 2019