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Your rights in the NHS

Guide to NHS waiting times

Part of the NHS pledge to put patients at the centre of everything they do involves making sure that you are diagnosed and start treatment as soon as possible, at a time that is convenient for you. The NHS Constitution says you have the right to access certain services commissioned by NHS bodies within maximum waiting times. Where this is not possible and you ask for this, the NHS will take all reasonable steps to offer you a range of suitable alternative providers.

This promise is made a legal right by NHS England and Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in the responsibilities and standing rules regulations 2012 (PDF, 259kb).   

What are maximum waiting times?

You have the legal right to start your NHS consultant-led treatment within a maximum of 18 weeks from referral, unless you choose to wait longer or it is clinically appropriate that you wait longer.

Consultant-led treatment includes treatments where a consultant retains overall clinical responsibility for your treatment. This could include treatments provided by the service or team led by your consultant. The setting of your consultant-led treatment, whether hospital-based or in a community-based clinic, will not affect your right to start treatment within 18 weeks. 

Only services commissioned by the NHS are included. Therefore, public health services commissioned by local authorities, such as sexual health services, are not covered by this right.

If you cannot be seen within the maximum waiting time the organisation that commissions and funds your treatment (CCGs or NHS England) must investigate and offer you a range of suitable alternative hospitals or community clinics that would be able to see or treat you more quickly. However, you will need to contact the original hospital, clinic or commissioner first before alternatives can be investigated for you. Your local CCG or NHS England must take all reasonable steps to meet your request.

Patients with urgent conditions such as cancer and heart disease will be able to see a specialist more quickly. For example, you have the right to be seen by a specialist within a maximum of two weeks from GP referral for urgent referrals where cancer is suspected.

Note: Referrals for investigations of breast symptoms where cancer is not initially suspected are not urgent referrals for suspected cancer, therefore, they fall outside the scope of this right.

A detailed list of rights and pledges regarding waiting times can be found on page 27 of the Handbook to the NHS Constitution (PDF, 798kb).

Comparing waiting times

You can exercise your right to choose the hospital you are referred to by comparing hospitals across England on this website.

Waiting times may vary between hospitals. Your decision about which hospital to go to may depend on recommendations made by your GP, the urgency to start treatment or whether the hospital specialises in a particular treatment.
 
You can compare waiting times for hospitals other than your local ones to see if the waiting time is shorter elsewhere. You can do this using the Services near you option at the top of each page. Enter a postcode and type of procedure or speciality or service into the search field.

Note: Waiting times shown are for the speciality or service that the procedure sits under, as a whole. For example, if you look up hip replacement you will find the average waiting time for an inpatient in orthopaedics at that hospital. The length of time that you wait will depend on your specific treatment and clinical needs, and you could be seen quicker or wait longer than this average waiting time.

How is your waiting time calculated

If a GP, dentist, optician or other clinician refers you for hospital treatment, the clock starts when you book your first appointment or when your referral letter is received by the hospital. In other words, measurement of the time you wait starts from this point.

Booking your hospital appointment through Choose and Book means your appointment can be booked while you’re still in the GP’s surgery. But you'll still have the option to book later at a more convenient time if you wish to talk to your family first or compare hospitals before making an appointment. You can book an appointment online or by calling The Appointments Line on 0345 608 8888.

When you see a clinician at your chosen hospital or clinic you may:

  • undergo tests, scans or other procedures to help ensure that your treatment is tailored appropriately to your condition
  • have medication or therapy to manage your symptoms until you start treatment
  • be referred to another consultant or department

The clock will stop (your waiting time ends) if no treatment is necessary or when your treatment begins. This could include:

  • being admitted to hospital for an operation or treatment
  • starting treatment, such as taking medication, that doesn’t require you to stay in hospital
  • beginning your fitting of a medical device, such as leg braces
  • agreeing to your condition being monitored for a time to see whether you need further treatment
  • receiving advice from hospital staff to manage your condition

If you want to delay your hospital admission, for example because of a planned holiday, the NHS may temporarily pause the clock.

Exceptions

The right to start treatment within 18 weeks does not apply:

  • if you choose to wait longer
  • if delaying the start of your treatment is in your best clinical interests, for example where stopping smoking or losing weight is likely to improve the outcome of the treatment
  • if it is clinically appropriate for your condition to be actively monitored in secondary care without clinical intervention or diagnostic procedures at that stage
  • if you fail to attend appointments that you had chosen from a set of reasonable options, or
  • if the treatment is no longer necessary

The following services are not covered by the right:

What if you have waited longer than 18 weeks?

If you have already waited longer than 18 weeks from your referral, or you think that your treatment will not start within 18 weeks, you should contact your hospital, clinic or commissioner.

If you are not happy with the organisation’s response, you also have the option of taking the complaint further using the NHS complaints procedure.

If your operation is cancelled by the hospital at the last minute (on or after the day of admission, including the day of surgery) for non-clinical reasons, the hospital should offer another binding date within a maximum of the next 28 days or fund your treatment at the time and hospital of your choice.

If you have not been offered an appointment within 28 days, you should contact the body that commissions and funds your treatment (CCG or NHS England).

Again, if you are not happy with the response, you also have the option of taking the complaint further using the NHS complaints procedure. 

For operations cancelled before the day of admission, the cancelled operations guarantee does not apply. However, the right to start consultant-led treatment within a maximum of 18 weeks from referral for non-urgent conditions, as stated in the NHS Constitution, continues to apply.

Organ donation

The lack of organs suitable for donation in the UK means that patients often wait a long time for a transplant operation. This means you can't be guaranteed an organ transplant within the 18-week waiting time limit. The NHS Blood and Transplant website has information on some transplant waiting times, such as kidney, liver, heart and lung transplants. 

Comments

The 63 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Rp1982 said on 08 September 2014

Can someone help clarify the waiting times for me? I have been to see a consultant already, but she has referred me to another consultant. She said it could be between one, three, five months or even longer to see the other consultant. I thought I was still entitled to start my treatment within 18 weeks even though I have been referred to another consultant? Does anyone know?

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User893277 said on 04 August 2014

I have found the NHS staff wonderful, sympathetic, caring but just accept the fact that on today's figures, 3 million people are expected to wait resulting in 1.5 million years of pain. Sadly I am now in the queue and have been for 7 months.

This level of service is unacceptable in any industry and it is now time the NHS was shaken up. The inefficiency, waste of time and resources is a joke.

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KatiePops888 said on 24 July 2014

Obviously I am naive as I thought the NHS would care for me as necessary. I was told in 2005 I need two knee replacements. Rang the consultants secretary to be told I was still on the waiting list. It is now 2014.

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jeanm51 said on 16 July 2014

I have been under investigation for nearly 6 months now. I have been in pain for a long time and have explained the symptoms to each professional I have seen. From the beginning of the pain I have suggested it may be Gynaecological but was told because of my age and I had been through the menopause it may be other areas and so the investigations began. I have seen a Kidney/bladder specialist and everything was clear. He suggested it may be my, bowel or my womb so I was sent for an Ultra sound scan for my womb and was told they couldn't see my right ovary but because of my age they seemed to accept that. I had a bowel investigation which came back clear. Still in pain and signed off work I went back to my GP who suggested the Gastro specialist and at long last a referral to the Gyaecologist. I went to see the Gastro specialist and they organised a CT scan which shows a number of Cysts on my right ovary (much to my suprise as they couldn't find it when I had the Ultra sound scan. I am now waiting to have an MRI scan which in my opinion had I had one at the very beginning I wouldn't have had to go through all these investigations. It would also have been a lot cheaper for the NHS, and had someone listened to me in the first place I would have seen the Gyaenacologist sooner. we are always told we know our own body so why don't people listen to you when you try and tell them instead of plucking at straws while the patient is in pain and wasting time waiting for appoinments.

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dfurness said on 15 July 2014

I have waited 18 weeks to see a specialist who has referred me to another - again I have to wait 18 weeks is this correct practice -I am in conic pain and the system appears to work against patients.

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dfurness said on 15 July 2014

I have been having treatment for severe back pain. I have been transferred from one specialist to another and each time there is a 18 week wait. Is this correct. I am now in my 15 week and still have not received an appointment

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GIVEN THE RUN AROUND said on 09 July 2014

Really..!!!! i have been chasing a surgical appt since March keep getting fobbed off every time i phone Doctor seems to be on holiday all the time, then he only operates 2 days a month, then its oh and it is a bank he does Monday's..!!!!, how would like to be in so much pain for 5 days of every month sometime be unable to work, bleed excessively so have to take numerous pairs of underwear to work, bleed through 2 nighttime towels, it it a joke. this 18 week rule thing is an absolute joke, they dont give a dam about the patients, of they did then they would be more active and supportive, caring etc, not lying fob off artists, each i call i am further down the pile how can that be, just been told will be September now if I'm lucky, 6 months since saw consultant, Not a happy bunny whatsoever, NHS is a pitiful poor excuse for what it used to be.

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blank2014 said on 06 July 2014

I got referred to a dietician by my consultant in Feburary 2013. I went to my consultant appointment in June, and still had not heard from dietician. Consultant said he would chase this up. Which he did. Only 4 weeks later I was then offered an appointment for 2nd July. Even after mentioning to my consultant that id be away on this date, i still got an appointment from the dietician department. So I called to reschedule and was told that i would be offered an appointment in August but would not receive a letter till a month before the appointment.
I haven't received a letter as yet, but could be early, I don't even want to follow up as have firstly found the communications to be rather lax and unfriendly. This has very much put me off actually going to the hospital more then once. Do you train your staff to be less abrupt and hostile when dealing with patients? Patients do have a say and shouldn't be made to feel so uncomfortable with the NHS system. Sadly every connection I have had has made me feel very uncomfortable, excluding the one consultant who has actually heard, advised and even suggested, in the most amicable manner you'd expect all practicing staff to i.e. nurses, dieticians etc etc.

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kazza1234 said on 04 July 2014

The 18 week rule is a complete fallacy! I had to wait 18 weeks to the day for the actual appointment with a knee orthopaedic surgeon as they had lost my referral & I spent hours on the phone to be told they had never received it but when I queried this with the integrated care service that referred me I was told that the referrals were sent electronically and it was impossible to lose them! I then was clocked off because it was virtually impossible to get one consultant to talk to another & then clocked back on to be told that I would definitely be operated on in a certain month & told to ring back a few weeks later & then when I did I was told my consultant did not have enough time what with being on holiday & on call so I would be breaching the 18 week rule. I then asked what the consequences were of the breach to be told there were none, I would just have to wait! I asked what was the point to having a rule if there were no consequences & the person said my operation (an arthroscopy) was only minor! Obviously I don't matter in the scheme of things. Try telling that to a person who can't walk for more than 5 minutes without their knee swelling to the size of a football & being in terrible pain & having to use a walking stick at 44! The nhs is a complete shambles. So much for the patient being at the heart of things! The patients don't matter a jot, there is not enough accountability & no-one seems to know what is going on least of all the patients!

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vistana11 said on 04 July 2014

My referral letter was received by my local hospital in November 2013 for day surgery operation. I had my first appointment with the consultant in April 2014 followed by pre op checks in June 2014. I was then told my op would be in September but today I was informed that it had changed to December!!!! The reason being is that the theatre is closed for 2 months for its 10 yr maintenance check!!!! They must have known that before I had my checks done which apparently are only valid for 6 months. I will probably have to have them done again. What happened to the 18 weeks!!!!! By the time it comes round I could be looking at 56 weeks. I wonder how long I would have to wait if I decided to go private!!!

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GILLSAM said on 24 June 2014

The waiting times outlined are complete and utter nonsense and only exist in the minds of executives and politicians. Here is a first-hand scenario of what can actually happen. My wife needed a hip replacement. The GP referred her to a local NHS/ Privately Funded hospital for treatment. The consultation came within 4 weeks and the date of operation was set for 8 weeks after referral. There are, however, complications because of a previous injury to the femur and the operation was put back to 11 weeks after referral. After 9 weeks the hospital reached the conclusion that this complication needs the specialist treatment of a university hospital and they cancelled. The GP immediately contacted the best hospital in the area. At this point the whole system fell apart. The clock started all over again! My wife will have the operation by one of the top specialists, 17 weeks from the referral to the university hospital but 26 weeks from the first referral. Who do you complain to? The PFI hospital? They have examined and reached the best conclusion as far as the care of the patient is concerned. The GP? She has done everything she can to ensure that the best surgeon does the operation. The university hospital? They are following the 18 week guidelines from their referral. Reading through the comments that have been put on this site shows that the scenario outlined above is repeated throughout the country. Does anyone in the NHS read these comments and if they do, do they take any action? Writing to the NHS does nothing except to quote the policy as laid out on these pages. Essentially it is a failure of the system.

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Tiredofwaiting said on 10 June 2014

It's all very well your waiting time being started when the hospital receives the Doctors referral letter, but my doctor went on holiday and didn't send the referral. I found out after waiting over a week for an appointment letter which didn't arrive, so I rang the surgery who told me he hadn't signed it. I was then told one of the other doctors could sign it but it would be at least another fortnight till I could get an appointment. As this is potentially life threatening I have opted to go private to be diagnosed. Just not good enough. We cannot really afford it but it may save my life so what's the alternative?

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IGE1 said on 28 May 2014

Waiting lists at N Tees and Freeman are a joke. You go from one list to another and the consultants have no idea of the true lengths. I was told by the consultant at Freeman Hospital my operation would be in a few weeks. It will be a few months if I'm lucky as I can't get the operation till I have the scans and they will be months away as I don't even have a date yet. Is this a scam to get us to all go private ? Pity I can't afford it otherwise I would. I waited 2 years for a new hip after being shifted from one waiting list to another. The 18 weeks should be from start to end not for each stage. I'm now waiting at Freeman for a continuing treatment.

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celiamary3 said on 22 March 2014

I can see from previous comments that I am not alone. Referred to consultant on 16 December, Holter monitor test on 8 Jan but no follow up until 9 May! I am assuming that the 18 week clock was restarted at the time of the monitor which will bring my wait in at 17 1/2 weeks. It's all a way of massaging statistics which actually show no one waiting longer than 12 weeks on the hospital website!

Interestingly the hospital in question has a twitter account but negative comments never appear! The only tweets you see are positive ones. This is not the way forward. We have to be honest about what is going on and then it can be improved.

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doughgirl said on 19 March 2014

Went to own GP last janurary as had terrible pain in wrist after falling down stairs got referred to hospital after a further 3 visits to Gp but waited 18wks to see consultant then another 20wks to get a ultra sound & injection but because of the wait the injection didn't work so last saw another consultant 19th November and have been told there a years wait for the op even thou it been down as urgent since last jan and now my other wrist is playing up because of the extra strain so better put in for op now to get it done within 2yrs

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cag12 said on 10 March 2014

My mother, aged 75, has an aortic aneurysm diagnosed in January, when it measured 5.5cm,she regularly wakes up in pain, following the scan and other tests she was given an appointment with the consultant on 3rd March, to discuss treatment options. however, due to 'unforeseen circumstances' the hospital cancelled this appointment, a new appointment was to be sent out in 3-5 days - its now 10th March, and having heard nothing, I telephoned the hospital on her behalf - was told verbally that this appointment will now be on 29th April and that if we were not happy with that to contact the GP - the GP has previously said to us that our contact should now be with the hospital! No explanation or apology was received for the appointment letter still not being sent out, and here is our mother with a life-threatening illness! On paper this looks like she was seen within a fair timescale - and yet in reality she is no further forward than in January, when initially the hospital did not want to allow her to go home due to her condition!!

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mc123 said on 07 February 2014

i was admitted to hospital on march 9th 2013 and i am still waiting for my op! i rang the secretary 6 weeks after being admitted and she told me that my file hadnt come down yet from the ward and that she would have to go and have a look for it, i asked why and was told that they had a change of junior doctors. that was the first delay. eventually saw consultant in may, and had an op booked for august 2013. august arrived and i had a throat infection and was told by nurses couldnt go ahead i am still waiting to be rebooked!

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dukenosey said on 23 January 2014

My husband has waited 16 and 17 months to see a consultant for his knee and foot at the Conquest hospital in Hastings E Sussex. Now has min 6 weeks wait for MRI scan then wait for an operation the consultant says he needs. 2 years wait in total if he's lucky. The NHS and government figures in waiting times are a bad, painful joke.

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Shirrmontana said on 23 January 2014

In July 2013, I had cataract surgery on my left eye, was told the right eye would be operated on within 4-6 months even had the lens measured in preparation. Had my diabetic eye screening in November and because of the density of the cataract they couldn't get a picture of the back of my eye so I was referred back to the eye hospital. Today I went to the retinal screening, they agreed the cataract was bad and it is affecting my quality of life. She said she would put the wheels in motion for the second op, but warned me the waiting list is 18 months. I have no vision in my right eye and am constantly miss judging my steps etc. I fell down the stairs in December. So another 18 months plus the 6 months since the last op means 2 years since I was promised 4-6 months........so frustrated and very upset

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out of order said on 17 January 2014

what a disgrace that there are waiting times at all! We recently moved here from continental Europe and there you get your treatment usually within a couple of days. Appointments are well coordinated, if someone needs to see different consultants such as an oncologist and a surgeon he'll normally be able to see them both on the same day. And waiting for months for operations? Unbelievable...

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RB58 said on 15 January 2014

I am self employed, disabled and live alone with the aid of carers. At the beginning of September I was added to the waiting list for further surgery, a cervical laminectomy and posterior fixation C3-7 and told the waiting list was 4 months which was confirmed in a letter signed by the consultant. Ringing the neurosurgical secretary yesterday I was told that “no way” could I possibly have surgery in that time the waiting list is 7 months, my admission will be in April. The waiting times published on NHS choices yesterday are 92.2% 18 weeks or less, half the number of patients treated in less than 9 weeks and 19 out of 20 patients treated within 20 weeks. None of this can possibly be true. The secretary blamed variously the outpatient clinician, the other patients and finally “that’s the NHS”. No it isn’t, it’s whoever decided to lie to me and all neurosurgical patients in the area and the country as a whole when they falsified their waiting times. I have now lost much needed work because I thought I’d be in hospital, a holiday, and the scheduled replacement of my central heating, and the transfer of my care to direct payments will now all happen when I’m recovering from surgery. All I wanted was the truth so I could manage my life accordingly. The NHS choices web site should be 100% accurate otherwise our choices are corrupted before we even start by the very people we entrust our lives to.

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sunlover100 said on 07 January 2014

Just to add.... I am in favour of 'free' healthcare for all (yes I know we pay for it!) and people sometimes shrug and say well you can't expect much if it's free. But the point is, a lot of the problems aren't due to lack of money, just a badly organised system. If I was as badly organised at work I'd have got the sack by now!

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sunlover100 said on 07 January 2014

Depressing reading the comments! I have had stomach/bowel pain for 2 months, finally got GP to bother examining me, said she would refer me to gastro doctor - said it would be 6-8 weeks. 2 weeks later got the 'choose and book' letter, the hospital nearest me didn't have any appointments offered at all, the next one had an appointment 2 1/2 months from now. When you are worried about an internal pain, it's not good waiting so long. 18 weeks for 'treatment' - well I won't be getting treatment then, only (hopefully) a diagnosis! GPs definitely getting worse over the last 20 years or so. May as well self diagnose and go to choose and book yourself!

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chriscounsel said on 06 January 2014

My GP referred me to the orthopaedic services of our local hospital in July and I was assessed by them on August 2nd-needing a full knee replacement. I was told that I would soon hear from the consultant. clinic By mid September I heard nothing so rang the secretary who promised to ring back twice but never did. In desperation I booked a private appointment to see the surgeon but still remain an NHS patient -was offered an appointment the following week. Paid £130 for 5 minutes consult for which I was kept waiting 45 minutes. I was offered a clinic appointment on October 5th whilst away. Had a pre op appointment on December 5th only to be told that the consultant hadn't done anything so no notes or procedures followed and there were no surgery anyway from mid December to mid January 14. Still haven't got a date -18 weeks? its a joke -they are saying the 18 weeks starts when you have seen the consultant then keep you waiting 10-12 weeks until you do -its just pushing the dates on. Meanwhile as the assessment nurse said if I was paying I'd be done next week or perhaps if I had come in from another country?? I'm 65, still work and paid my tax all my life -shameful shameful shameful!

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minardi said on 02 January 2014

Interesting to read the comments.

I was referred by my GP on October 4th, and my appointment came very quickly. (I had to see 5 doctors before one would actually refer me). The specialist at the hospital was brilliant, and referred me for an MRI scan. A 4 - 6 week wait. So far so good.

After 4 weeks I hadn't heard anything, so I called the hospital. Lost in the system, and straight to the back of the queue! Another 6 week wait! After lots of calls and complaining, this was reduced to 3 - 4 weeks. So I had my scan at the end of November, and received the results in Mid December. As I thought, there was a lot of interal damage to my ankle and I've been referred to a surgeon.

Today I ask about appointments, and apparently there's a 13 week wait! After more complaining, I get an appointment booked for March. That's now 22 weeks, and still not at the treatment stage. In as many words, I was told that the hospital has a 95% success rate, and I'm one of the unlucky ones. No apology. No attempt to move me up the queue. Nothing. That's what really angers me.

So I speak to the secretary of the surgeon. She tells me that the 18 weeks restarted when I was referred to the surgeon, because the MRI scan counts as 'treatment.' Correct me if I'm wrong, but that sounds like absolute tripe. How can diagnostics be classed as treatment? Did the MRI machine fill my ankle will magical healing powder? Not just a big lie, but also very concerning that the hospital would be manipulating the figures, lying about the referral date.

So tell me this. If they're doing everything they can, and I can't be moved any further up the queue, then how can 95% of patients be getting treatment within 18 weeks? Espcially if the surgeon is a 13 week wait alone!

Either they could move me up the queue, but can't be bothered, or they're using false figures to meet their targets. Meanwhile I struggle to get through work each day, and I can't exercise. I'm only in my 20's...

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Kernowman69 said on 30 December 2013

Hi all.... after reading the previos posts I can see the NHS is seriously failing it's patients.
I've been on the phone most of today chasing up a date for my wifes operation which will hopefully end her years of constant pain... Here's what I found out.
First call..was transferred only to be cut off when I questioned the 18 week policy.
Second call.. told she should have had a pre-op consultation 4 weeks after first consultation and operation agreement date. This was on 3rd December 2013.... so 31st December should have been the next consultation and a date set for operation. This is to be a telephone consultation ( set for 31st January 2014 ) but when wife asked what would happen if she couldn't get thru at 8.15am that day she was cut off.
Next was a call to surgery booking... who said no date was set yet and wouldn't be until after 31st january. They also said that their date for commencement of 18 week window was 3rd December, the date of first consultation as not referred for operation til then. When asked why if GP had refereed for operation on 18 th October 2013 and referral had been processed on 22nd October and letter with 3rd December appointment sent out on 23rd October was the date now moved to 3rd december they cut her off.
It looks like they are trying to move the start date of the 18 weeks limit by at least 6 weeks, which is completely in contradiction to the letter re- when will the 18 weeks start which was included with the letter dated 23rd October. This appears from what I've seen here to be the norm.... so why have the 18 weeks in the first place if they have no intention of abiding by it ?
I completely sympathise with all the others being fed bull by the NHS and not being treated with dignity & respect..this needs to stop.

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bruckshaw said on 27 December 2013

My GP diagnosed Essental Tremor but I asked for a referral to be sure that it was not Parkinson's Disease ... it was!.
I was not given any referral choices by my GP nor were any mentioned.
I waited 12 weeks for the consultation. That was 4 weeks ago and the specialist has not yet communicated to my GP his findings and prescription suggestion. 16 weeks after the referral I am still waiting in spite of having asked twice that the GP's staff chase the letter and I once attempted to contact the specialist's secretary by phone ...an answerphone with no method of leaving a message!

By the way the information given on the NHS Choices website is woefully inaccurate and useless as a source on which to base choices. My GP referred me to Stockport Stepping Hill which does not show up as having a Neurology facility and the waiting times at Manchester Withington and Salford Royal are given as 20 days ... they are actually 12-16 weeks!! Be warned and check personally.

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rmca said on 13 December 2013

Hi, I wonder if someone could help. I was referred to my consultant 45 weeks ago, i have seen him 3 times and been sent for further tests in this time. I went last week and he said that i now need a hysterectomy and its a 9 mth wait. I really cant wait that long so i rang today to be told that I have been waiting 45 weeks already, it seems that the 'clock' has been running since my referral. Does it mean that i will wait the 9 mths, or does the 45 weeks count towards my wait time? His secretary wasn't in so i had to speak to someone else, perhaps she will reset me to the beginning when she gets back from holidays :-(

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jahou72 said on 29 November 2013

18 Weeks, what a joke. I have been forced to pay for 2 of my surgeries due to 8 month waits. I now have spinal osteoarthritis due to being born with spinal defects. had to pay again to see a surgeon in August and as expected he advised I needed major spinal surgery, that this was the only way to reduce my severe pain and he was happy to put me on his nhs list in London. Dorset ccg have had this report for 4 months but refused to act on it and sent me to a hospital with a 6 months consultation wait and year wait for surgery. I work and am going to lose my job. I am beyond angry with the Govt and NHS. You demand the disabled work, but refuse to give us access to timely treatment to alleviate our pain. It's inhumane.

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multigrip said on 24 November 2013

What a laugh about 18 weeks i started my treatment over six years ago had to finish work over illness and i am no further on now than i was when i first went to the hospital to see a consultant.Have been cancelled three times for operation they say someone else needs it more than me they have just cancelled my next on December 3rd and given me January 7th now what a laugh have complained to no avail its one big joke. .

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User804972 said on 19 November 2013

@ soreback75

No, you do not have to wait a further 18 weeks as you have not received any treatment. You need to find out when the hospital received the referral from your GP, that is when your 18 week clock starts.

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soreback75 said on 01 November 2013

Hi i am wondering if anyone can help, have been through a lot of websites and still a little confused about waiting times. I have a slipped disc, have had an MRI scan and my GP has referred me to see a consultant, this was in May it is now 25 weeks later and I have just received an appointment to see the consultant in the next few weeks. Does anyone know if i still have a further 18 weeks to wait if i have to get an operation?

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jahou72 said on 04 October 2013

What a joke you always wait more than 18 weeks and you have no chance of getting treatment brought forward.I need to have major spinal surgery, I was born with congenital scoliosis and I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in my lumbar spine and spinal stenosis in March. Physiotherapist said major surgery was my only chance of relieving the terrible pain I am in. I PAID to see a top spinal surgeon as I knew this surgery could not be done in Dorset. He confirmed that I needed this surgery and said I needed to go to a specialist centre. I have had to fight my cgc to get referred to a specialist centre. I now have to wait 5 months just for the appointment and over 12 months for surgery after that. I give up. The government demands that disabled people work. I do work but am going to lose my job as I am in agony and struggling to work. So the government expects me to work in agony without giving me treatment for 18 months inhumane. Takes over 6months to go through complaints procedure so no point. I am now trying to take out a massive loan to pay for surgery abroad. This will be the Third time I have had to pay for surgery in order to keep my job and home, I am beyond despair and disgusted.

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cjadec said on 30 September 2013

so far, not too impressed. had gastroscopy in May, ampullary adenoma found and discussed at outpatients appointment 13 August, where I was advised I needed to be referred for second opinion to specialist in London. Had heard nothing by early September so chased...chased again mid September and still nothing. Chased again today to find out the specialists secretary who is meant to be contacting me is on leave!

The only saving grace is a lovely lady from the PALS team that has been also chasing and keeping me sane in the thought that at least someone is listening to me and cares!

I know the specialists have other patients but im in limbo atm :( I don't even know where my RTT starts because of the complexities of my case - referred for one problem and another found; if from the moment the second referral was made then it may not even have started yet - if from the first referral then 18wks is well and truly up....and in all this, the adenoma could be growing past point of resection thus requiring major op :(

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User804972 said on 19 September 2013

@ Milan Ruparelia

No, your clock is stopped when you are actually admitted to the hospital, ie when you come in for the operation. Your clock will run until this point. Hope this helps.

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Larking said on 18 September 2013

I was referred for orthapedic surgery on 1/05/2013, following a consultation with a Specialist at Congleton Hospital.
I was informed that the waiting time for treatment was 18 weeks, as was duly advertised on notices in the clinic, which took it to 13/09/2013.
Within days I received an appointment for a Pre-Op Assessment at MDGH, which I had in early June, and was asked by the Nurse if I had been given a date for the operation.
This week having heard nothing from the Hospital, I telephoned the patient booking line, to ask if a date had been scheduled for me, (as I have to stop some of my medication 2/3 weeks prior to Surgery, which MDGH are aware of).
I was advised my scheduled date was 09/11/2013, because the Conultants' Annual Leave has to be added on! This takes it to 25 weeks! and when I pointed it out to the lady I was talking to, she went quiet for a few seconds, and then advised me they would be in touch before then!!
I await with hopeful anticipation that I will receive an earlier date soon!

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Milan Ruparelia said on 03 September 2013

I am slightly confused on how my waiting time is calculated - as per the above "The clock will stop (your waiting time ends) if no treatment is necessary or when your treatment begins. This could include: being admitted to hospital for an operation or treatment"

I have been referred to an operation by the Hospital, does that mean that my clock has been paused?

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RoxanneP said on 15 August 2013

As a member of admin staff for the NHs in one of the hospitals, I can say that although there times when the waiting times are longer than 18 weeks, we do do stive to keep them within this time. Many poeple do not realise how over worked admin staff are, nhs admin have more work to complete than any other admin staff in other companies. We are under emses pressure to ensure that the 18 week rule is adhered. There are over 62 million people in the uk wo are entitled to nhs treatment, Around 660 are waitng for diagnostic tests at any one time. 98% are seen and on treatment within the 18 week wait. So on behalf of the all the nhs staff I apologise that we are unable to get it right 100% of the time.

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Andrew999 said on 16 July 2013

I've needed multiple heart ablation operations to try and fix my heart speed and rhythm problems.
The first 2 operations had a 9 month plus waiting time. I'm still having problems and need another operation. I've now been waiting 8 months and am no nearer the top of the waiting list. When I complained, the NHS staff said this was normal.
They say a maximum of 18 weeks, I think they meant 18 months.

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ArthroScopyQueensHospitalRomford said on 25 April 2013

The NHS waiting time listed is wrong.

Average time from referral by GP to treatment for this department says 14 weeks for Queen's Hospital Romford.

But I have been waiting for 20 weeks now.
When called up they say it takes 26 weeks wait time

Wrong data on website here:

http://www.nhs.uk/Service-Search/Arthroscopy-of-the-knee/ig1-4he/Results/369/0.0819458737969399/51.5651931762695/1356/0?distance=25

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Taxed to death said on 06 December 2012

I picked Lister's hospital in Stevenage using this site because it said that the waiting times to see a cardiologist was only 16 days so my doctor put in for a "priority case" because my condition was detraining quite fast so I was gob smacked to receive an appointment time back from Lister's for an appointment in 9 weeks time.

As my condition became worse (no surprise) I ended up at Lister's A&E department who kept sending me home and failed to spot water on the lung but eventually a consultant at Lister's realised the seriousness and pulled out all stops and thing are now moving much faster.

I would like to find out why the initial waiting times shown here bear not relationship to the time for my appointment and I would also like to say that after me paying 11% NI and my boss paying 12% NI all these years I seem to be on the broken side of a contract when you cannot even complain if you have to wait up to 18 weeks to see a consultant for an heart condition that could had killed me if I did not kick up.

Pay your taxes or VAT 18 weeks late and see what HMSG has to say about it

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mommy1981 said on 21 October 2012

This article made me laugh. If I hadn't laughed I would have cried. I'm waiting for surgery to repair a fast growing aortic aneurysm due to having Marfan Syndrome. The 18 week waiting time is a joke. I waited 8 weeks to see surgeon which wasn't to bad. Was told that the wait would be 3+ months. I've now been waiting 32 weeks since seeing the surgeon. So that's 40 weeks since I was told I needed surgery and still no sign of operation soon.

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Hayley2406 said on 10 October 2012

I need a bit of advice...I'm waiting for a gallbladder removal as I'm getting pancreatitis. I have a discharge letter from my consultant referring to an urgent removal and wondered how long is reasonable to wait as its been 5 weeks since I was discharged following my last attack!

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Hayley2406 said on 10 October 2012

I wondered if anyone can help me. I've gone through the government guidelines on waiting times but I'm still confused. I was admitted to hospital with acute pancreatitis 8 sept, caused by gallstones. Consultant recommended !urgent Surgery!. What constitutes !urgent surgery! I've just been given an operation date of Nov 15. I'm off work as I'm having bilious attacks on a regular basis and I'm getting worried about my job now. Was led to believe I would be operated on within two weeks when I was in hospital in Sept!
Would appreciate anyone's thoughts I'm so depressed now I just want this over!

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misswelsh1 said on 10 October 2012

in july 2007 i went to my doctor with brething problems, got sent to hosp, had the shock of my life to discover i had pheunomia and 3 leakey heart valves !!!! i was 27... 3yrs i waited for a operation to replace 2 valves and patch another 1 .... but all done n dusted now thank god

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SURVIVOR99 said on 15 September 2012

Got Hypercalcaemia, now that scans etc have been done it just needs a 20 minute op to whip out a growth on a gland.
Diagnosed November 2011 and still not on waiting list for operation. Told it will then be a 9 month wait when I finally get on the list, this makes nearly 2 years of misery and pain for me (and the people around me!)
Have worked in NHS and know not to blame the staff.

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zzub said on 10 August 2012

Similar story here.
I was referred urgently by my GP in May 2012 for excruciating pains in my left arm.
Several appointments at the Greater Manchester CAT team (MRI and nerve conduction studies) revealed a prolapsed disc C6-C7, trapped nerves in my elbow and spine and tendonitis.
The consultant at CAt referred me urgently again to Hope Hospital.

Apparently "urgent" does not mean urgent until it has bee triaged. My "urgent" referrals apparently arent. Its now mid August. Im completely addicted to Morphine and Codeine. Have yet to receive a response from Hope hospital so just rang my PCT PALS team to tell them that my urgent case will not be treated within the timescales allowed by govt.
The Pals member said that I was making a complaint, and should be complaining to Salford PCT. I sat on the phone and read her the constitution out loud. "oh so you want to make a complaint?" I dont deal with complaints, and put the phone down.

Doesnt the NHS realise that when somebody is in excruciating agony. The only thing they want is to be treated. They dont want to and dont have the energy to complain. Ive been saying for the last 14 weeks now....somebody just give me my details. I'll sell my house and go private.

the frustration these empty promises on here ive (and the complete disregard with which they are treated by NHS staff) is unreal.
Im walking into A&E and demanding to be treated. If not Ive enough morphine at home to sedate an elephant or three.

sometimes these guys just need to realise that 3-4 months without sleep seriously affects your ability to see "their point of view" rather than wanting to rip their limbs off!

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Leatdevon said on 07 August 2012

I am now plodding through the NHS complaints process to attempt to get the so called right to access treatment within 18 weeks. It is now 30 weeks since the referral for surgery and I had to make a private appointment to see a surgeon as the so called Spinal Pathway in my area did not include this step. I had been in a car accident and even with a history of previous surgery, I was offered pain management or ' go home. ' My GP did not understand why this was the case but his letters were ignored. My complaint is actually about the PCT ignoring the complaints process altogether: informal advice from the Ombudsman has been great although they have suggested I have been too patient waiting for replies that do not come.
My condition has worsened, my life is on hold and I hold out no hope I will get treated within 52 weeks. Once you have been breached, they forget about you and the so called sanctions from Monitor do not seem to be imposed. The hospital in Devon with such long waits has not met the speciality targets for orthopaedics for a very long time. The result? They continue to leave patients without hope and make claims in Board level reports that they are sorting this out. They never have. NHS Constitution rights? Not worth the few lines of print as they cannot be enforced. The process is even longer than the wait so it is win win for the PCTs. Does anyone know any patient who has ever used the Constitution to claim the legal right to access treatment? Bet they do not exist! Come on you Civil Servants make this count: without teeth this is a futile element of the NHS.

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rem1987 said on 01 August 2012

I would like to add my experiences here with the NHS. Now first of all - I respect the idea of free healthcare..when it works. A member of my family works in the NHS as an A&E nurse and she is absolutely disgusted at the way I have been treated by NHS Grampian. I am a 25 year old woman who has been having what I described as "digestive problems" for the past 3 years or so. I was having episodes of severe pain after eating large meals which I put down to being heartburn/indigestion. This would happen every 2/3 months where I would have a few hours of severe, crippling pain which would then go. I adapted my diet and began to have 6 small meals a day instead to 3 larger ones. That seemed to sort the problem, but I was still getting a few bouts of pain but only every few months. Then in March 2012 I was taken out for a meal and I was very ill afterwards. Like the pain I'd previously experienced, but 10 times worse. I was like that for almost a week!! I went to my docs (which I'd never done for this pain before) and he reckoned it might be gallstones. About 6 weeks later I went for an Ultrasound and hey presto! i had lots of gallstones. I was referred by my GP on 25th April..and that's the last I've heard from NHS Grampian. I have been back to my GP numerous times since April with the pain. Now don't get me wrong my GP is a gem! Every time I go back to him he puts another referral to the hospital. This is now referral no. 3, many trips to the G-Docs service to get stronger painkillers prescribed and finally a dihydrocodeine prescription from my GP...oh and also a bout of jaundice thrown in there too! I rang up the hospital today (Aberdeen) to ask where I am in the system as I've not seen a consultant yet, so not on any surgery waiting list and I was told nothing. I am having to rely on painkillers to get through the day. Rang complaints dept to chase things up.hopefully I will hear something soon. The pain is unbearable and gb needs to come out asap!

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rem1987 said on 01 August 2012

I would like to add my experiences here with the NHS. Now first of all - I respect the idea of free healthcare..when it works. A member of my family works in the NHS as an A&E nurse and she is absolutely disgusted at the way I have been treated by NHS Grampian. I am a 25 year old woman who has been having what I described as "digestive problems" for the past 3 years or so. I was having episodes of severe pain after eating large meals which I put down to being heartburn/indigestion. This would happen every 2/3 months where I would have a few hours of severe, crippling pain which would then go. I adapted my diet and began to have 6 small meals a day instead to 3 larger ones. That seemed to sort the problem, but I was still getting a few bouts of pain but only every few months. Then in March 2012 I was taken out for a meal and I was very ill afterwards. Like the pain I'd previously experienced, but 10 times worse. I was like that for almost a week!! I went to my docs (which I'd never done for this pain before) and he reckoned it might be gallstones. About 6 weeks later I went for an Ultrasound and hey presto! i had lots of gallstones. I was referred by my GP on 25th April..and that's the last I've heard from NHS Grampian. I have been back to my GP numerous times since April with the pain. Now don't get me wrong my GP is a gem! Every time I go back to him he puts another referral to the hospital. This is now referral no. 3, many trips to the G-Docs service to get stronger painkillers prescribed and finally a dihydrocodeine prescription from my GP...oh and also a bout of jaundice thrown in there too! I rang up the hospital today (Aberdeen) to ask where I am in the system as I've not seen a consultant yet, so not on any surgery waiting list and I was told nothing. I am having to rely on painkillers to get through the day. Rang complaints dept to chase things up.hopefully I will hear something soon. The pain is unbearable and gb needs to come out asap!

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moo56 said on 26 May 2012

i went to docs and i was told i would be seen in 2 weeks to have a camera to see if i have bowl cancer and still waiting after 4 weeks i thought this would be urgent

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Winchester Patient said on 26 May 2012

I went to my GP surgery yesterday (May 25) and was offered an appointment for June 21. I have a problem that may be serious.Is this really the best the N H S now offers after a lifetime of imposed contributions?

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Tattyanne1963 said on 16 February 2012

been waiting since June 2011 to see a doctor got my appointment in September then had my pre op in October waited for my date for my operation which finally came through in January this year for the 17th Feb, so operation tomorrow no chance, came home from work and a voice mail on my home phone to say sorry but your operation tomorrow is cancelled due to too many people coming through A&E, disgusting, I am in a vast amount of pain and was struggling but thought I have my date should be ok, its only to have my gall bladder removed but the amount of pain I am in is awful, and the end of the message we will contact you to arrange other date, well are the pigs flying I think so!

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wanna99 said on 11 February 2012

What a load of poor quality info contained on this site!

My example - been waiting for knee replacement at Sheffield Northern General for 30 weeks, and still no sign of an operation,
I have been told that it 'could' be more than 40 weeks!

Yet on the waiting time page for this op at the Northern General, it says 12 weeks!! Complete rubbish - which they admit when you phone them up to query.

You can keep your 'Constitutions' and 'Frameworks' - the reality is that the NHS is a law unto itself, very poorly run and answerable to no-one.

It just annoys me that this website can pass made up rubbish off as fact!!!

My advice to anyone finding this site, is don't bother - there is little on here that is factually correct

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User616763 said on 17 November 2011

I think the best way to avoid the waiting times and get treated right now is to go elsewhere. NHS isn't all that bad when it works but when it doesn't there are other ways. Most that cannot afford domestic private healthcare choose to go abroad instead. Out of those that take the plunge all are pleasantly surprised by the level of service they receive there, the quality of treatment as well as money saved by going abroad.

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denw said on 14 September 2011

My husband had a hip replacement 12 years ago at the age of 26. 2 years ago he started to again get pain and lack of movement, which has got increasingly and progressively worse this past year. In Nov 2010 we got an appointment with his consultant who, after doing various tests and scans, agreed that he needed a hip revision. In february we were told that he was on the waiting list with a view to having the op in june. In may we were told that the op was cancelled due to "lack of funds". After much passing of the buck we were told that he would be put back on the list in the same place when the new funds came through. This did not happen and we were basically told that "he had fell through the net". We eventually were called to a pointless consultation with the consultant -a waste of time and money for all concerened -to be told that "yes, you still need the op" - Really? what a surprise. Now we were told he would be at the top of the september list - fine we thought. 4 weeks ago he had his pre-op, fantastic. But when we informed the waiting list people we were told that there were now more people suddenly ahead of us on the list - the same list which 2 wks before we were at the top of! They now say he MIGHT have the op in the middle of oct _ MIGHT , nothing is in writing. How ill does he have to be to get this op? My previously fit and healthy husband is now in constant, crippling pain, only able to hobble around like a 90 year old, not able to sit or stand for more than a few minutes, feeling more depressed and defeated with no end in sight- the best of it is he works for the NHS!! More patient respect needed.

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INPAIN MAN said on 29 July 2011

THIS 18 WEEK RULE IS JUST A COMPLETE GOVERNMENT LED GIMMICK THAT HAS NO IMPACT WHATSOEVER ON ACTUAL WAITING TIMES, I HAVE NOW BEEN WAITING 26 WEEKS FROM FIRST SEEING A CONSULTANT, ( NOTE : SEEING THE CONSULTANT NOT A REFERAL.) TO BEING TOLD I NEED SURGERY. I HAVE NOW BEEN TOLD SURGERY WAITING TIMES ARE A MINIMUM OF 8 WEEKS, YEH RIGHT, AND PIGS MIGHT FLY. WHAT REALLY GETS ME IS THAT IT WOULD HAVE BEEN EVEN LONGER HAD I NOT MADE A COMPLAINT TO THE NHS. 18 WEEKS ??? WHAT A LOAD OF TOSH, DONT HOLD YOUR BREATH AND IF LIKE ME YOUR IN PAIN I ADVISE YOU TO STOCK UP ON PAIN KILLERS.

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frustrated of bedford said on 25 July 2011

What has happened to the 18 week rule for NHS services users?? My husband needs a second hip resurficing. From referal seven and half week wait to see consultaint then told op was needed, and as it was the same consultiant who did the last op and then the 18 week rule was well and truly breached, formal compliant made to the chief exc and finaly got op. My husband was in an ward that his consultiant only had two paitents in!!!. Chief exc assured us the consultiant was at the hospital fulltime. I managed to get several appointments with him privately at different locations..... This time my poor pain killer addicted husband has to wait until Jan 2012... We cant afford private health care, and why should we, having paid in all our working lifes, and still working and still paying in. I telephone the hospital compliants team who where neither informed or showed any compassion... I dont expect the 18 week rule to be riged, you need some flexiabilty with all the cut backs but to nearly double the 18 week rule to 36 week rule!!! we going to the old days of waiting years for an operation. Would welcome a response from the Health Minister!!

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annnoyed gran said on 06 July 2011

my grandson was referred about heart complaint in jan. saw consultant in feb [great] was told he would see surgeon in leeds within 4-5 months, has just had appointment this week, travelled all the way there to be given more or less same info as in the folder he already had and be told that he wont get operation for at least another three month after another visit to leeds for pre-assessment where is the eighteen week rule apart from the waste of nhs funds using clinic appointment for something that could have gone in an e-mail

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troudles said on 28 June 2011

after going to the docs for approx 18mnth with pain in my arm i was sent for a scan in jan 2011 was told i had two slipped discs in my neck and i would need an operation which would be sometime in may i phoned near the end of may as i heard nothing to be told would be now sometime in july but to phone in june then to be told would be sometime aug-sept all due to shortage in beds i still have to work as there is only so much sick leave i can take i just wonder how much longer i will have to wait the pain gets worse and is now in more places than just my arm

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pbet01 said on 16 June 2011

At the beginning of july 2010 I went to see my gp with regard to pain in my knee. He referred me to the local orthopaedic team. I saw the consultant fairly soon after that and I was sent for an mrI scan. Again, this was quite soon following referral. I was then called back to see the orthopaedic consultant to discuss the findings; I needed an arthroscopy. An appointment was made for me to see the surgeon the following week! I met the surgeon and discussed the procedure. However, it was several months before an appointment was made for me to actually have the surgical procedure. My surgery took place on the 28th april 2011. When I was discharged (the same day) I was advised that I would see the surgeon within two weeks to discuss the operation, how it went and any other issues identified (which there had been). It is now seven weeks since my operation (to the day) and I am still waiting for an appointment to see the surgeon. Bearing in mind that I was advised during being discharged from day surgery to keep all of the dressings on until such time I had seen the surgeon at the appointment two weeks later!!! Needles to say, I have been in contact with the surgeons’ secretary who has advised me that there is a delay due to high numbers of patients waiting to see him. She did say that if I wasn’t happy with this then perhaps I should speak to pals.

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Frank Lang said on 13 June 2011

Absolute farce, In 2010 after the usual long wait of months to see the Specialist, at the appointment, it turns out he did not do my type operation! Went back to see my GP in January 2011 ... my appointment for 18th Feb. was made via "Choose and Book" to see another wrong Specialist at the Warrington General, so this then had top be put back again untill 9th March to see the correct Specialist. I was put on his waiting list for an operation on that date (9th March). I am now told that I will have to wait for my operation, NOT 18 weeks, Not 22 weeks but possibly as long as 28 weeks before I can have the operation! Quite disgusting considering I am in constant pain. At the time of writing it is 13th June 2011 and still not a remote possibility of the operation!! Only dire administration and paper words. Patient Charter, what Patient Charter! Frank Lang

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micky bell said on 17 May 2011

Yesterday I went to my GP surgery to book an appointment to see my Doctor. I was told that she was fully booked for the next two weeks, and was on holiday on the following week. Fine says I, as soon as possible then. No way, they tell me. Apparently. the policy is not to book appointments for over two weeks in advance, I left somewhat confused and disappointed and without any idea when or how an appointment could ensue.

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Page last reviewed: 22/05/2013

Next review due: 22/05/2015

The Choice Framework 2014

The Choice Framework explains when you have a legal right to choice about treatment and care in the NHS. The legal right to choice doesn't apply to all healthcare services, however, where you do not have a legal right to choice you should at least be offered some choices, depending on what’s available locally.

The NHS Constitution

The Constitution sets out the rights patients, the public and staff are entitled to, and pledges the NHS is committed to achieving

GP referrals

This section provides information about how to request a specialist service from your GP. Also find tips on other services you may access through your GP

Having an operation

If your GP has suggested you may need surgery, this guide is for you

Going into hospital

Find out how to prepare for going into hospital, including what to pack, admissions and arranging time off work