Expected waiting times 

We prioritise patients who have the most urgent clinical needs, and patients who have been waiting the longest. 

All patients who are on an urgent treatment pathway, for example due to a possible cancer diagnosis, will continue to be seen as quickly as possible. 

Unfortunately, in most cases, your GP will not be able to help you get seen quicker, as hospital appointments and waiting lists are managed by the relevant hospital service. 

You can view average waiting times for your appointment or treatment, and the date that you w referred to our hospital by downloading and signing into the NHS APP. You can also view average waiting time information on the NHS MY PLANNED CARE WEBSITE.

Contacting you to book an appointment, treatment or surgery

Surgery and treatment 

We normally book surgery and treatment appointments at least three weeks in advance.

We will try to contact you by telephone so that we can discuss date options and explain what you need to do. 

If we cannot reach you by phone, we will send you a letter by SMS text message, e-mail or post.

Outpatient appointments

You will normally receive a letter by SMS text message for an outpatient appointment or a letter by post or email if you have not registered a mobile phone number with us.

The letter will include your appointment date and location as well as further details, for example what you should bring with you.

We do arrange ‘virtual’ outpatient appointments – via telephone or video – when appropriate.

Please also note that outpatient appointments are likely to be booked a long time in advance.

Read more here. 

Sometimes we need to rearrange appointments, treatment or surgery

Unfortunately, from time to time we do need to rearrange appointments, treatment or surgery dates for various reasons. 

For example:

  • if there is a strike, we may need to cancel some clinics or operating lists to ensure everyone is kept safe.

  • we sometimes have a high number of very urgent cases, which means we have to reprioritise care for people who do not have such urgent needs.

  • if staff are absent due to illness and we have not yet been able to put alternative staffing arrangements in place.

We are really sorry if we have to rearrange your care – we do appreciate how frustrating this will be, especially if you have already been waiting for some time. We will always endeavour to rebook your appointment, treatment or procedure at the earliest opportunity.

Why are patients waiting longer?

During the pandemic, many NHS appointments, planned surgery and treatments were suspended to allow staff to focus on caring for people with Covid-19 and other urgent and emergency conditions.

This led to a build-up of appointments and procedures and subsequently longer waiting times for many people needing planned care.

We are working hard to improve our waiting times but we continue to face challenges, including high demand for our services, which can worsen in the winter months.

How can you support us to improve our waiting times

  • We are starting to communicate regularly with patients to reassure them that they are still on our waiting list and to check whether they still need an appointment, treatment or surgery.

    Please read more on what to do if you receive a message from us.
  • We also ask that you tell us if they need to cancel or rearrange an appointment, treatment or surgery as soon as possible, so that we can make sure someone else can use that appointment or treatment slot. If you need to cancel or reschedule your appointment, please call the number on your appointment letter or email us.

  • We are improving information that may help patients keep their appointment – such as information on how to find our hospitals or get support with travel costs.

    Please visit the getting to your appointment page to find out more.

    If you find it hard to walk or if you need medical support during your journey, you may be eligible for our non-emergency transport service.

    If you are on low income or receive benefits, you may be eligible for help with the cost of travelling to and from your appointments. Please visit the help with travel costs page to find out more about eligibility and how to claim.

What are we doing to reduce waiting times for our patients?

Here we describe some of the work we are doing to improve waiting times. 

  • Theatre productivityprogramme to help us improve productivity in our operating theatres, in order to treat more patients more quickly and improve patient and staff experience. This includes:

  • establishing new processes to make sure everyone and everything is in the right place at the right time to avoid late starts and cancellations.

  • improving how we schedule operations and refurbishing theatre areas to improve ‘operational flow’.

  • running specialty-specific operating lists at Charing Cross Hospital on alternate Saturdays, primarily for patients who have been waiting the longest. By focusing on one speciality across multiple theatres, our surgical teams can work more systematically and treat more patients per session. 

  • Improving communications with patientsIn line with national guidance, we are starting to contact patients to ask if they still need their appointment, treatment or surgery. We understand that a person’s individual circumstances can change, symptoms may improve, and some people may choose to receive care elsewhere. It is important that we know when patients no longer need care so that we can update our waiting lists, so that we can see other patients, who still require care, more quickly. 

  • Supporting patients to wait wellWe know certain groups of our population have a poorer experience when waiting for treatment, particularly those who live in our most deprived areas. Together with public partners, we have developed a webpage with resources to help patients stay well while they are waiting for treatment. We are also working on a project with colleagues from Imperial College London and patients from our most deprived areas, to understand what would help them while they are waiting for orthopedictreatment.

  • Patient choice programme. In November 2023 patients waiting over 40 weeks for elective care, who did not have an appointment date within eight weeks, were contacted by us to be given the choice to see if they would be willing to travel to a different hospital if it meant they would be able to be seen sooner. A total of 114 patients requested to transfer to another hospital, and 38 patients received treatment sooner at an alternative hospital.

Staying well while you wait

While you are waiting, there are things you can do to help you stay well and prepare for your procedure if you are having one. These include stopping smoking, exercising regularly, drinking less alcohol and eating a healthy diet. These changes can help your body manage the demands of surgery and aid recovery.  Please read more here. 

Viewing your referrals, appointments and test results 

The NHS app gives you access to your hospital and GP records in the same place. This includes hospital referrals and average waiting times. It’s available as a smartphone app and on the web, so a smartphone is not essential.  You can also use the Care Information Exchange to see your hospital records including appointments, test results and clinic letters. You can add information such as symptoms to the record, and share it with family and other people involved in your care.  

If you have a concern 

Please contact us if you have a concern or a complaint - we would like to hear from you so we can help.

You can also visit our frequently asked question web page, here. 

North west London elective access policy

Please read the north west London elective access policy, if you would like more information on the roles, responsibilities, pathway and process guidelines to manage elective waiting times to ensure patients are treated promptly, efficiently and equitably.