18 weeks

What it mean for patients

In the early 1990s waits of more than six months for your first outpatient appointment were not uncommon, and tens of thousands of you waited more than two years for your operation.

By December 2008, the longest you will wait after being referred by your GP until you start your treatment will be 18 weeks – that is, unless it is clinically appropriate to wait longer, or you choose to delay treatment.

Wherever possible you will wait less than this. Any hospital appointments, tests, scans or other procedures that you may need before being treated will all happen within the 18 weeks.

18 weeks is about delivering the right care, at the right time, of the right quality and without unnecessary delays.

To find out more about NHS waiting times see this NHS Choices guide.