If your GP refers you for treatment, you have the right for any non-emergency treatment that you need to start within a maximum of 18 weeks or for the NHS to take all reasonable steps to offer you a range of alternatives if this is not possible.
You also have the right to be seen by a specialist within a maximum of two weeks from GP referral for urgent referrals where cancer is suspected.
As long as you choose it and it is appropriate for you, you have the right for any non-emergency treatment that you need to start within a maximum of 18 weeks, or for the NHS to take all reasonable steps to offer you a range of alternatives if this is not possible. In fact, most patients will start their treatment much sooner than that.
Patients who are urgently referred by their GP to a specialist for the diagnosis or treatment of suspected cancer have the right to be seen within a maximum of two weeks.
Your rights around waiting times and everything else about your NHS care are set out in The NHS Constitution, which brings together – for the first time in one place – what we can all expect from the NHS and what is expected from us in return.
Three things that you can do to make sure your treatment begins sooner:
1. Ensure that you are fit for treatment
Think about the things you can do while you are waiting for a consultant appointment to help ensure that you are fit for treatment, particularly if you need an operation.
Lifestyle changes, such as stopping smoking and losing weight, can make a big difference to the outcome of your treatment. Your GP or other health professional should discuss this with you.
2. Ensure that you understand your condition and treatment plan
With good information about how to manage your condition, what to expect from treatment and when you can expect it, you can reduce disruption to your life. Remember, some treatments and diagnostic tests can be provided just as effectively outside hospital (e.g. at your GP practice). This might be more convenient for you and help you to be treated sooner.
3. Keep your appointments
You should be given a choice of appointment times and dates so that you can choose one that is convenient for you. However, we appreciate that other things can crop up – lack of childcare, work commitments, a planned holiday.
If you can’t keep your appointment, the NHS can work around you provided you let us know in good time. Otherwise, your treatment may not start as soon as possible and your rights relating to waiting times may be affected.
An appointment made at a time convenient for you is better for you and better for us.
If you have any concerns about the length of your wait you should contact your hospital in the first instance. If you are not satisfied with how your request has been handled, or if you would like more information and advice about waiting times, contact our complaints team.