The NHS Constitution gives patients the right to access services within maximum waiting times, or for the NHS to take all reasonable steps to offer you a range of suitable alternative providers if this is not possible.
This right is a legal entitlement protected by law, and applies to the NHS in England. The maximum waiting times are described in the Handbook to the NHS Constitution.
- Your GP, dentist or other health professional will refer you to a specialist via the Choose and Book service or a referral letter
- Your 18 weeks waiting time starts on the day the hospital receives the referral letter or on the day you make the booking for your first appointment, via the choose and book service
- If you were referred by letter you will be called or asked to call, to make an outpatient appointment and offered a choice of dates. Or we will make a provisional appointment for you which you can choose to rearrange if the date and time are not convenient for you
- You will attend your first outpatient appointment
- You may be sent for a diagnostic test
- You may require a follow-up appointment
- If you need surgery you will need to attend a pre-admission appointment
- You may require treatment and a stay in hospital
- Your 18 weeks waiting time ‘clock’ ticks until you receive your first treatment.
Even if you require all of the above tests and appointments this should take no longer than 18 weeks. Sometimes however, it may not be appropriate for to receive treatment in 18 weeks. This may be because as a patient you:
- need several tests completed in sequence
- may not be medically fit enough to receive treatment within 18 weeks
- choose to wait longer than 18 weeks.