Intended for healthcare professionals


NHS cancer targets are slimmed down with the aim of speeding up diagnoses

BMJ 2023; 382 doi: (Published 17 August 2023) Cite this as: BMJ 2023;382:p1906
  1. Adrian O’Dowd
  1. London

The current 10 cancer targets in the NHS in England are to be slimmed down to just three “standards” from later this year in a move designed to speed up diagnosis times and improve cancer care.

Health experts and some politicians have reacted cautiously, welcoming the prospect of quicker diagnoses, but voicing concerns that the changes may be merely “moving the goalposts” on targets and ignoring more widespread problems of overall NHS capacity as waiting numbers remain stubbornly high.

NHS England confirmed on 17 August that it was reforming its cancer standards to reflect what mattered to patients and to align with modern clinical practice. Following consultation and engagement with clinical experts and cancer charities, the current 10 performance standards will be consolidated into three key standards:

  • The 28 day faster diagnosis standard—patients with suspected cancer referred for urgent cancer checks from a GP, screening programme, or other route should be diagnosed or have cancer ruled out within 28 days

  • The 62 day referral-to-treatment standard—patients referred …

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