Cancer care waiting times

Published: 10 Mar 2017

In brief


The delays in cancer care waiting times are the longest since targets were first introduced.


There are a number of cancer care waiting times. Targets for the proportion of patients being treated within 62 days of being urgently referred by a GP are being missed. In January 2017 the proportion meeting the target was the lowest since targets were set in 2009. The rest of the targets were all hit.

“And today, figures were released, for the first time, showing devastating delays in people waiting for cancer care, the longest delays for most people since the targets were first put there.”

Polly Toynbee, 9 March 2017

There are a number of waiting time targets linked to cancer care in England. The latest figures show that one of these was being missed by a record margin across England in January this year. The rest of the targets were all hit.

NHS England says that 85% of cancer patients should wait for no longer than two months between being urgently referred for diagnosis by their GP and receiving their first treatment. This was the target being missed.

Just under 80% of patients were seen within this target time in January, the lowest proportion since 2009. The last time the target was met was in December 2015.

Other waiting times cover parts of this process between being referred by a GP and being treated.

They include 93% of patients waiting no longer than two weeks between referral with suspected cancer and getting their first outpatient appointment. Another is that 96% of patients should wait no more than a month between diagnosis and first definitive treatment.

These specific targets for cancer waiting times were introduced in 2009.

This factcheck is part of a roundup of BBC Question Time. Read the roundup.


Automated Factchecking

We aim for our factchecks to be as accurate and up-to-date as possible. If you think we've made an error or missed some relevant information, please email