About cancer

What standards of care can I expect?

This section has information about the standards of care you should expect when referred to hospital for tests or treatment. If you have a suspected cancer, it is something that needs to be investigated quickly and thoroughly.

Currently, all people referred with suspected cancer by their GP have a maximum wait of two weeks to see a specialist. This also applies to all people referred for investigation of breast symptoms, even if cancer is not initially suspected.

People with cancer should wait no more than 31 days from the decision to treat to the start of their first treatment. It is also expected that any subsequent surgical, drug or radiotherapy treatments will be delivered within 31 days.

No-one with cancer should wait more than a maximum of 62 days from their urgent GP referral to the start of their treatment. This 62 day standard also includes all patients referred from NHS cancer screening programmes (breast, cervical and bowel) and all patients whose consultants suspect they may have cancer. (NHS Choices website).

Key points

  • Your hospital should either write to you with your appointment date, time and directions to your clinic or they may ask you to phone them to make an appointment on a suitable date.
  • They'll tell you what will happen during and after your appointment, and give you a phone number to ring if you have any questions.
  • Your doctor or nurse specialist should explain what is wrong with you, the different treatments for your condition and the risks and benefits of each treatment. They will discuss this with you and listen to your views. If you decide to go ahead with your treatment you may be asked to sign a consent form, after you have been given a full explanation of the proposed treatment.
  • You can expect to be involved in all decisions about your treatments.
  • Any relative or friend you name will be kept informed about your condition.
  • Your health records are confidential and are held securely. You can see your records if you ask. You may be asked if your health records can be used for important health research, including the improvement of care and treatment. Your decision will be respected.
  • You may be asked to take part in medical research or medical student training. You do not have to agree to this.
  • NHS staff will respect your privacy and dignity. They will be sensitive to, and respect, your religious, spiritual and cultural needs at all times.
  • You will be treated fairly by the NHS staff, according to your healthcare needs, regardless of age, sex, disability or sexuality.

These standards were set back in 2001 but are being adhered to, and added to, during the various changes happening at NHS commissioning level.

Updated information about your rights as an NHS patient are detailed below, in The NHS Constitution, which details what staff, patients and the public can expect from  the National Health Service.