NHS waiting times, are they being met?


Most of us know friends or family who are waiting for (or have recently undergone) non urgent surgical procedures via the NHS and in many cases have been subject to a waiting time that is more than expected.

The waiting times for non-urgent surgical procedures may be one of the highest influencing factors that are encouraging people in the UK to consider private medical insurance to ensure that they can receive treatment when they need to.


*We must remember that the maximum waiting time for non-urgent consultant led treatments is 18 weeks from the day the appointment is booked via the NHS e-referral service or when the hospital or service received the referral letter.

The 18 week waiting time does not apply in the following circumstances:

  • you choose to wait longer
  • delaying the start of your treatment is in your best clinical interests – for example, where stopping smoking or losing weight is likely to improve the outcome of the treatment
  • it is clinically appropriate for your condition to be actively monitored in secondary care without clinical intervention or diagnostic procedures at that stage
  • you fail to attend appointments that you had chosen from a set of reasonable options
  • the treatment is no longer necessary

What is the maximum waiting time for urgent cancer referrals on the NHS?

The maximum waiting time for suspected cancer is two weeks from the day your appointment is booked through the NHS e-Referral Service, or when the hospital or service receives your referral letter.

Note: Referrals for investigations of breast symptoms where cancer is not initially suspected are not urgent referrals for suspected cancer, and therefore fall outside the scope of this right.

What happens if your operation is cancelled at the last minute?

If the hospital or service cancels your operation at the last minute (on or after the day of admission) and for non-clinical reasons, they should offer another binding date within 28 days or fund your treatment at a date and hospital of your choice.

If your operation is cancelled before the day of admission, the hospital or service is not obliged to provide an alternative option within 28 days. However, your right to start consultant-led treatment within a maximum waiting time still stands. If cancelling your appointment results in you having to wait longer, you have the right to ask the hospital or CCG to move you to a different provider.

*The above information has been sourced from https://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/appointment-booking/Pages/nhs-waiting-times.aspx#maximum