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NHS waiting times for elective and cancer care

The NHS Constitution sets out the maximum time patients should wait for elective and cancer services, which the Department of Health and Social Care incorporates into the waiting times standards it expects the NHS to meet.

Performance against waiting times standards has been deteriorating as demand for services has grown. The standard for elective care was last met in February 2016. As at August 2018, almost 4.2 million NHS patients were waiting for elective treatment, the highest level since 2007. The NHS is meeting some standards for cancer care but not others. For example, the standard for first treatment for cancer following an urgent GP referral was last met from September to December 2013.

This review will provide insight into:

  • How waiting times performance has changed and how it varies between trusts;
  • What is known about the impact of waiting time performance on patients;
  • What is known about the factors that influence waiting time performance; and
  • NHS England’s and NHS Improvement’s approach to managing waiting time performance.