A Timely Service…
From December 2011, the maximum time you'll have to wait for non-urgent treatment will be 18 weeks from when your GP refers you to the hospital. Most patients - those who need urgent or emergency treatment - will wait far less than this.
It's important that everyone understands what the 18-week standard means. It doesn't mean 18 weeks from seeing your GP to seeing the hospital consultant in an outpatient department. It means that within that 18-week period, you'll be referred by your GP, be assessed by the hospital and begin your treatment.
The NHS is going to face some challenges in achieving this standard. That's why we're supporting NHS boards to make best use of their current capacity and encouraging them to use other resources, such as primary care-based diagnosis and treatment services and electronic means of assessing patients (telemedicine), to meet demand. We're also investing an additional £270m over three years to improve the range and quality of services available across the country.
The 18-week Referral to Treatment Standard is about improving patients' experience of the NHS. It's about ensuring that all patients who need non-urgent treatment receive high-quality care without any unnecessary delay and all the worries and stress that delays can cause.
The 18-week standard means that patients will:
- get faster access to treatment and care
- spend less time in hospital for tests and treatments as more services will be provided by GPs and other community services
- attend fewer hospital appointments as services become reorganised
- face less disruption to their daily lives
- understand better what they can expect from their treatment and care, and when to expect it.
As we move towards full introduction of the standard in December 2011, we'll reduce the longest wait for a first outpatient appointment to 15 weeks, the wait for diagnostic test to six weeks and the wait for inpatient or day case treatment to 15 weeks by the end of March 2009.