New waiting times standards for cancer come in this month

Date posted: 27th September 2023 New waiting times standards for cancer come in this month thumbnail image

From 1 October, the standards measuring waiting times for cancer diagnosis and treatment are being modernised and simplified.

The NHS will move from the 10 different standards in place now to three:

  • Faster Diagnosis Standard: a diagnosis or ruling out of cancer within 28 days of referral (set at 75%)
  • 31-day treatment standard: commence treatment within 31 days of a decision to treat for all cancer patients (set at 96%)
  • 62-day treatment standard: commence treatment within 62 days of being referred or consultant upgrade (set at 85%)

The main changes are:

  • Removal of the Two Week Wait standard requiring a first appointment within two weeks
  • Combining together the first and subsequent treatment 31-day standards to create one headline performance standard.
  • Combining together the Urgent Suspected Cancer GP referral, Urgent Screening and Consultant Upgrade 62-day standards to create one headline performance standard for all patients.

There is no change to the way GPs refer patients onto Urgent Suspected Cancer pathways. The only change is that the NHS will measure how well it is dealing with those referrals by looking at speed of actual diagnosis, not whether the patient has a first appointment within a fortnight.

This follows a consultation in 2022 where these recommendations received widespread backing from cancer specialists and patients.

The new standards aim to encourage innovations like, remote image review, use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and one-stop-shop clinics, and to ensure that patients receive equal focus and priority regardless of their point of entry to the pathway, whether GP referral, screening, or consultant upgrade. They focus on outcomes and incentivising the completion of pathways rather than process measures.

Cancer Waiting Time statistics will continue to be published monthly by NHS England, who will take this opportunity to improve the detail of the statistics by cancer type.

More information is available on the NHS website.

Accessibility tools

Return to header