Patients & Visitors

Cancer Waiting Times

What are the National Cancer Waiting Times Targets?

The national cancer waiting times targets were introduced to help improve that quality of patient care as set out in the original NHS Cancer Plan (2000) this was further revised in 2007 as part of the National Cancer Reform Strategy.

In 2011 the Coalition Government reviewed all cancer targets and confirmed that Cancer Waiting Times remained an important issue for cancer patients and the NHS will continue to ensure that cancer services are delivered to patients in a timely manner.  The targets are set out in the document Improving Outcomes: A Strategy for Cancer (2011) and are summarised below:

  • Two Week Wait Standard:
    All patients urgently referred by their GP with a suspicion of cancer should wait no longer than 14 calendar days from the date the referral is received by the hospital to the date they are first seen in hospital.
  • 31 Day Standard:
    All patients who are newly diagnosed with a cancer should wait no longer than 31 calendar days from the date of decision to treat to receiving their first treatment.
  • 62 Day Standard:
    All patients who are urgently referred by their GP with a suspicion of cancer (Two Week Wait Standard) who are subsequently diagnosed with cancer should wait no longer than 62 calendar days from the date the referral is received by the hospital to the date of their first treatment.
  • Two Week Wait Symptomatic Breast Standard:
    In addition to all patients with suspected cancer, all patients referred with any breast symptoms should have their first hospital appointment with 14 calendar days  of the referral being received at the hospital even if cancer is not suspected.
  • 31 Day Treatment Standard:
    The 31 Day Standard applies to all cancers, irrespective of whether they are new or recurrent, relapsed or metastatic. In addition all surgical and drug therapy treatments (not just first treatment) are subject to a 31 Day Standard, e.g. a patient receiving surgery post radiotherapy must receive their surgery within 31 days of the decision to treat surgically being made.
  • 62 Day National Screening Standard:
    The 62 Day Standard now applies to referrals from National Screening Services (Bowel, Cervical and Breast screening). So patients diagnosed with a cancer that has been detected via the screening programme will need to start their treatment within 62 days of the screening referral.
  • 31 Day Standard:
    All subsequent treatments (not just surgery and drug therapy) will be subject to the 31 Day Standard, so every new and subsequent treatment is required  to be delivered within 31 calendar days of a decision to treat date or an 'earliest clinically appropriate date'.

For further information please refer to the ASWCS cancer network web page


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