Cancer Waiting Times (CWT)


Cancer Waiting Times standards monitor the length of time that patients with cancer or suspected cancer wait to be seen and treated in England. These were first introduced through the NHS Cancer Plan (September 2000) and extended in the Cancer Reform Strategy (2007).  A review of the standards in 2010 led to confirmation in Improving Outcomes: A Strategy for Cancer (2011) that they would be retained.

All cancer waiting times standards are monitored through the National Cancer Waiting Times Monitoring Dataset (NCWTMDS) which is an information standard applicable to all cancer services providers funded by the NHS in England. Data is sent to the CWT collection service. NHS England are given a monthly extract of pseudonymised data, which is used to produce official quarterly reports and monthly management reports.

The official quarterly reports can be found at the NHS statistics page:

Operational standards

The current measures and the operational standards are:

  • Two weeks from urgent GP referral for suspected cancer to first appointment (93%)
  • Two weeks from referral for breast symptoms (whether cancer is suspected or not) to first appointment (93%)
  • 62 days from urgent GP referral for suspected cancer to first treatment (31 days for children's cancers, testicular cancer, and acute leukaemia) (85%)
  • 62 days from urgent referral from NHS Cancer Screening Programmes (breast, cervical and bowel) to first treatment (90%)
  • 62 days from a consultant's decision to upgrade the urgency of a patient (e.g. following a non-urgent referral) due to a suspicion of cancer to first treatment (no operational standard set)
  • 31 days from diagnosis (decision to treat) to first treatment for all cancers (96%)
  • 31 days from decision to treat/earliest clinically appropriate date to second/subsequent treatment (surgery or radiotherapy) (94%)
  • 31 days from decision to treat/earliest clinically appropriate date to second/subsequent treatment (anti cancer drug therapy, eg chemotherapy) (98%)

In 2015, the Cancer Taskforce recommended the introduction of a new 28 day Faster Diagnosis Standard. Changes to the CWT system and dataset that are being introduced from April 2018 mark the start of the implementation of this new standard, which will be fully implemented by 2020.


Guidance documents can be found at: (NHS users only)

This includes:

  • How to record the data: National Cancer Waiting Times Monitoring Data Set Guidance
  • How to upload the data: Cancer Waiting Times User Manual
  • How to view what has been uploaded: Cancer Waiting Times Reports User Manual

Further questions and queries about how to record different cases, what to do about mistakes in the data records or data requests can be sent to the Cancer Waiting Times mailbox:

For queries regarding the data uploads process contact the Open Exeter Helpdesk on 01392 251289