The 18-week maximum referral to treatment standard comes into effect from 1 January 2009. Every primary care trust and trust must strive to achieve this standard across all services and specialties, and monitor waits so that patients do not wait more than 18 weeks for reasons other than choice or clinical exception.
Referral to treatment data for January will be published on the pre-announced date of 26 March 2009.
(2) whether the 18-week target maximum waiting time between GP referral and treatment applies in respect of second appointments.
The 18 week commitment covers consultant-led elective services. From 1 January 2009, the minimum expectation of consultant-led elective services will be that no one should wait more than 18 weeks from the time they are referred to the start of their hospital treatment, unless it is clinically appropriate to do so or they choose to wait longer. It includes all appointments including those for diagnostic tests between referral and first definitive treatment.
On completion of an 18 week referral to treatment period; a new 18 week clock starts when a clinical decision is made to start a substantively new or different treatment that does not already form part of that patient’s agreed care plan.
Latest published figures for the end of December 2008 show the median waiting time for an in-patient admission stands at 32.4 days, compared to 92.4 days in March 1997. The median waiting time for a first out-patient appointment stands at 22 days, compared to 36.5 days in April 2004 when out-patient data were first published.