Waiting times

Referral to treatment

General waiting times are referred to as ‘referral to treatment’ figures and are published every month by NHS England. The numbers measure the proportion of patients seen within 18 weeks (a government target) and the average waiting times for different kinds of treatment.

This data is broken down by local region, hospital trust and Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). Historical figures date back to 2007.


Waiting times for cancer services are published separately every three months. These show the number of two-week and month-long waits by treatment provider, and the average length of time patients wait for treatment according to type of cancer. Historical figures date back to 2008.

Accident and emergency

Figures for how many people spend over four hours in A&E from initial arrival to admission, transfer or discharge are published every week by NHS England. They show the total number of people attending A&E departments overall and by local department, broken down by the type of department (major, minor or specialist). They also show the number of patients who wait more than 12 hours from a decision to admit them to hospital to their eventual admission. Historical weekly figures date back to 2010.

Figures dating back to 2004/05 are available, but are quarterly rather than weekly.

The average and median amount of time people actually spend in A&E is published separately by NHS Digital as A&E quality indicators.

More detailed figures on the distribution of waiting times were published in a Focus on Accident and Emergency report covering the 2012/13 year.

Detailed figures for A&E attendances covering the age and sex of visitors, of the hour, day and mode of arrival, as well as the diagnoses and treatment that result from visits, are published by NHS Digital as annual A&E attendances.

Waiting times for ambulances queuing, delayed transfers of care and other ‘winter pressures’ (though these do happen throughout the year as well) are published every winter as daily situation reports.

Waiting times in Scotland are published by Information Services Division Scotland. Waiting times for Wales are published by the NHS Wales Informatics Service. Figures for Northern Ireland are published by the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety.


Waiting times are also provided for specific scans and the use of diagnostic equipment, with breakdowns for local hospital trusts and Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs). This data is published every month by NHS England. Historical figures date back to 2006.