A consultation on the approach recommended by the CRS for cancer services ran from 9 March until 6 April 2022 to capture views from the public, wider stakeholders and other interested organisations.

The proposals set out an approach to modernising and streamlining cancer waiting times standards, refocusing performance measures on the NHS Long Term Plan objective of earlier and faster diagnosis, while continuing to incentivise the best clinical care.

The outcome of this consultation showed widespread support from clinicians, patients and leading cancer charities to modernise the cancer waiting time standards, which would move from 10 standards to three from 1st October 2023:

  • Faster Diagnosis Standard: a diagnosis or ruling out of cancer within 28 days of referral (set at 75%)
  • 31-day treatment standard: commence treatment within 31 days of a decision to treat (set at 96%)
  • 62-day treatment standard: commence treatment within 62 days of being referred (set at 85%)

The new standards are more in line with the requirements of modern cancer care, with a greater focus on outcomes over process. They will ensure equitable access to care because the new treatment standards will measure waiting time for all patients regardless of their route of referral into the system and the type of treatment they receive.

The Faster Diagnosis standard was piloted in selected areas to look at the impact it had. During the testing period, areas that were part of the testing saw slightly higher performance on the Faster Diagnosis Standard than areas that were not part of testing. There was no evidence that areas where the two-week-wait standard was removed saw slower diagnoses for any cancers.

GPs will still refer people with suspected cancer in the same way, and the changes will also give clinicians greater flexibility to adopt new technologies such as remote image review and AI, and modern working practices such as one-stop-shops and straight-to-test.

The government has now given its backing to making these changes, which will come into place from 1 October 2023.

A new set of Cancer Waiting Times technical guidance has been published to support the changes. We have also notified NHS Trusts of the outcome of the consultation report, and what changes will need to be implemented on a local level.