Treatment waiting times
In March 2010, the NHS Constitution was updated to include a new right for patients to start consultant-led treatment within a maximum of 18 weeks of a GP referral. In 2012, it became a statutory requirement that at least 92% of patients should have a referral to treatment (RTT) time of less than 18 weeks, and since June 2015 this has been the sole measure of treatment waiting time performance. In 2013/14, NHS England set an operational standard to ensure that no-one waits more than 52 weeks for treatment.
The Government's mandate to NHS England for 2018-19 did not include an objective for the 18-week RTT target to be met during the year, but it was included as an "overall 2020 goal".
Once there has been a decision from a consultant that a patient needs treatment and they have been referred to a hospital, they are on the waiting list and the clock starts on their referral to treatment (RTT) waiting time. Their treatment pathway, or time on the waiting list, can end in one of two ways:
- 'Admitted': if a patient is admitted to hospital for treatment, the pathway clock stops once they are admitted either as a day case or inpatient.
- 'Non-admitted': if a patient receives treatment that does not require an admission or is not treated, the clock stops when they receive treatment or when a decision is made that no treatment is needed.
Data for 'incomplete pathways' show patients who have been referred but have not yet started their treatment. These data give an indication of the number of people on the waiting list for treatment each month.
Since October 2015, there has been no provision to report pauses or suspensions in RTT waiting time clocks in monthly RTT returns to NHS England under any circumstances.
For further guidance on RTT waiting times, please see the NHS England website.