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Cancer Waiting Times

Historical Data

NHS National Services Scotland ISD Scotland & NHS National Services Scotland

Historical Data

Background and history

In 2001, the Scottish Executive (now the Scottish Government) published Cancer in Scotland: Action for Change, which set a target that 'by 2005 the maximum wait from urgent referral to treatment for all cancers will be two months'. Cancers subject to this target (referred to herein as the '2005 target') were brought online between 2001 and 2005 as data collected by NHS Boards became available for reporting. The first cancer to be reported on was breast cancer (2001) followed by colorectal cancers (2002), ovarian (2003), lung (2004), and finally in 2005 cancers for head and neck, lymphomas, melanoma, upper gastrointestinal cancers and urological cancers.

All reported cancers were subject to the 2005 target, under which at least 95% of urgently referred patients were to wait no longer than 62 days for treatment from the date of referral. Breast cancers were also subject to a 2001 target, where if clinically appropriate, patients were to wait no longer than 31 days from the date of diagnosis to the commencement of treatment. Acute leukaemia patients and children diagnosed with cancer were subject to a separate 2001 target, as set out in the Scottish Government publication Our National Health: A plan for action, a plan for change, whereby all patients urgently referred for treatment were to begin treatment within 31 days from the date of referral.

The inclusion criteria for patients reported against these targets changed over time. Prior to June 2005 the waiting times statistics covered only patients that were urgently referred by their GP. From July 2005 the statistics included the following urgently referred patients: urgent GP referral, GP referral to A&E, self referral to A&E, and urgent referrals from general dental practitioners. From July 2004, exclusion categories were introduced: patient induced non-clinical delay, patient refused treatment, co-morbidities, and patients that died before treatment. In January 2007, the exclusion categories of clinical reasons, and initial referral to other speciality were added.

Data sources

The information to support these targets came to ISD from NHS Boards in each of the three regional cancer networks - South East Scotland Cancer Network (SCAN), North of Scotland Cancer Network (NOSCAN) and West of Scotland Cancer Network (WOSCAN). Staff working within the Networks routinely captured data for monitoring patient performance against these targets as part of data collection for prospective audit within NHS Boards. Data on childhood cancers were also collected and provided to ISD by each of the three regional cancer networks.

Consultation on the publication of New Cancer Waiting Times Statistics

When the targets included in 'Better Cancer - An Action Plan' were launched, the existing cancer waiting times statistics at that time were replaced with a new series of figures. A consultation document was produced which summarised ISD's proposals for the new series of official statistics due to be published from June 2010. The consultation period lasted just over 10 weeks; details of the consultation results can be found in the Summary Feedback Report Download PDF file [340kb], and Detailed Feedback Report Download PDF file [640kb], documents.

Annual Publication of Acute Leukaemia and Paediatric Cancers

A review of all ISD statistical waiting times' publications took place in 2011. This consultation process took place between ISD, the Scottish Government and data providers to consider the user-need and frequency of a suite of waiting times' publications. The Acute Leukaemia and Paediatric Cancers publication which has been published annually since 2007 was included within this review. The final recommendation was that The Acute Leukaemia and Paediatric Cancers statistics will no longer be published by ISD; however NHS Boards should ensure that data collection continues to facilitate the monitoring of performance locally. The last annual publication of acute leukaemia and paediatric cancers can be found below:

Changes to Cancer Waiting Times targets

Under the Scottish Government's action plan, 'Better Cancer Care' the 62-day target was amended to require 95% of patients urgently referred with a suspicion of cancer. This target was also extended to include patients who were referred through the national cancer screening programmes. The action plan set a new target that by 2011, all patients diagnosed with cancer, whatever the route of referral, would start treatment within 31 days from the date of decision to treat. Reporting against the targets outlined in Better Cancer Care replaced the reporting against the 2005 targets on the 29th June 2010. As NHS Boards were collecting these data, old cancer waiting times were also being collected at the same time for patients diagnosed up to December 2009. An overlap of patients who were diagnosed before January 2010 but treated on or after January 2010 may have resulted in patients being recorded in both targets.

A final set of statistics on the 2005 target were published on 18th May 2010. This final publication and various historical statistics are detailed below. These figures did not take account of the changes outlined in Better Cancer Care.

October to December 2009 Download Excel file [120kb] - Final release of statistics for urgently referred patients, for each of 9 cancer sites and for all target cancer sites combined under the 2005 target.

July to September 2009 Download Excel file [120kb] - Statistics for urgently referred patients, for each of 9 cancer sites and for all target cancer sites combined.

April to June 2009 Download Excel file [100kb] - Statistics for urgently referred patients, for each of 9 cancer sites and for all target cancer sites combined.

Data prior to April-June 2009 were published by the Scottish Government


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