This inquiry focuses on the 18 week standards which are used as a measure of NHS success and incorporated into the NHS Constitution. The Constitution states that patients have the right to (pre-planned non-emergency) consultant-led elective care within 18 weeks of being referred (for example, by their GP).
NHS England is responsible for holding to account the 211 clinical commissioning groups and it is their joint responsibility to uphold patients' right to start consultant-led treatment within 18 weeks of referral. The Department of Health is accountable for service provision, has powers to intervene in the event of failure and has a duty to ensure NHS England perform effectively whilst respecting their operational independence.
The number of referrals to consultants in England increased by 3 per cent over the past year and currently stands at 19.3 million (2012-13), with current associated costs of £9.2 billion. Having previously identified weaknesses in the waiting times data systems, this inquiry looks at the way waiting times are interpreted and recorded by trusts, and at data validation.