The NHS is under severe pressure. Rising numbers of patients need hospital care – whether in an accident and emergency department, for cancer treatment or for planned operations and care, such as knee and hip replacements. Growing numbers of people are also reporting they are struggling with their mental health.
For each there are strict targets local services are expected to meet across the UK. But what are the chances of being seen in time where you live? Use our interactive tracker to find out.
If you can’t see the tracker, click or tap here.
This guide is based on the latest data on performance against four NHS waiting-time measures:
- A&E treatment
- Cancer care
- Planned operations and care, such as knee and hip replacements
- Access to psychological treatment such as counselling
This data is currently published either monthly or quarterly depending on where you live in the UK, and there are differences between how the targets are measured in each part of the UK. See below for data sources.
The A&E target
The way the A&E target is measured is almost identical. In each case services across the UK are given four hours in which to treat and discharge or admit or transfer a patient.
They are all expected to do that in 95% of cases, although ultimately Scotland wants it services to get to 98% once 95% is achieved. There are also slight differences in the way the start time is measured.
The cancer target
There are similarities in the way cancer care is measured. Each expects patients to be treated within 62 days of an urgent referral.
In Scotland this can be following a GP or A&E referral or following a screening test.
Elsewhere it is broken down individually by referral route. So for the rest of the UK the BBC has chosen GP referral as the area to focus on as this is the most common route. Again the thresholds services are expected to achieve vary.
The planned operations and care target
The one that varies the most is for planned hospital care, which is also known as non-emergency treatment.
In England, Wales and Scotland the target measures the point at which you get a referral from your GP to the point when your treatment starts – in effect the whole patient journey.
In Scotland and England services have 18 weeks, in Wales it is 26 weeks.
Meanwhile, in Northern Ireland there are a range of targets for different parts of the patient journey. The BBC has chosen the last part, from when the decision is taken to admit the patient for treatment to when that treatment starts. It therefore does not include the tests and appointments that follow a GP referral, which can take weeks or even months. Services in Northern Ireland have 13 weeks to achieve this target.
The thresholds vary too. None is expected to achieve these goals 100% of the time. In Northern Ireland services have to achieve the target in 55% of cases, whereas in Wales it is 95%, in England 92%, and in Scotland 90%.
The mental health therapy target
There is also quite a wide variation in how access to mental health therapy is measured.
These therapies cover psychological treatments, such as counselling, for conditions such as depression, anxiety and stress.
In England and Scotland access is measured in the time it takes from getting a referral to that treatment getting under way.
Scotland publishes a combined figure for mental health for the three Islands boards – Shetland, Orkney and Western Isles – this is because the numbers being referred are relatively small.
In Wales the data only covers part of that patient journey – from when it is definitely decided treatment is needed, which is normally one-stage after a referral from a GP.
Northern Ireland does not measure access to mental health support outside of hospitals.
How local is defined
In England data is provided down to individual hospital trust level, some of these run more than one hospital. The BBC has excluded specialist trusts for cancer, children’s care, women’s services and orthopaedic treatment and instead focused on the 131 general hospital trusts – what most people would consider their local service.
However, mental health therapy services fall outside the control of hospitals and are organised by local NHS organisations called clinical commissioning groups (CCGs).
Elsewhere performance is broken down to health board level, known as health and care trusts in Northern Ireland. They are in charge of services for a region or large city and often run more than one hospital alongside community services.
We have chosen these boards because while some data is provided down to individual hospital level it is not done across all four targets.
How far back performance is tracked
The BBC has tracked back performance to the point at which the latest target was set or to when the records allow.
When a target has been missed for five years, we have just labelled it as that.
When targets have been hit more recently, we have provided the month they were last hit.
The targets where it has not been possible to go back five years:
- in England for mental health therapy, the target of 75% was set in 2015 but only published in quarterly data from April 2016
- in Scotland for A&E as the target threshold was reduced from 98% to 95% in October 2014. And for mental health the target of 90% was set in December 2014
- in Northern Ireland for planned operations and care because its 13-week target threshold of 55% was set only in April 2016
- in Wales the mental health target of 80% started in November 2015
The full list of dates from which the performance of local services is available are:
A&E: June 2010
Cancer: January 2009
Planned operations: April 2012
Mental health therapy: April 2016
A&E: October 2014
Cancer: January 2012
Planned operations: January 2011
Mental health: December 2014
A&E: October 2009
Cancer: October-December 2009
Planned operations: September 2011
Mental health: November 2015
For Northern Ireland:
A&E: April 2008
Cancer: April 2009
Planned operations: April-June 2016
How the data is displayed
The bar charts displayed for each measure represent the data for each trust or board which we are tracking in each nation. As most of the data is in a fairly narrow range, we have truncated the vertical y-axis so that the detail can be seen more clearly. In the example below, the axis starts at 70%, in other charts it varies in accordance with the data.
Privacy and how the NHS Tracker works
When using the calculator above your postcode is requested so that the BBC can provide information on NHS performance in your area. The BBC is the data controller of the data you enter here. For more information see the BBC Privacy & Cookies Policy.
Data research and analysis by Ransome Mpini, Christine Jeavans, Nick Triggle, and John Walton. Design by Irene de la Torre-Arenas. Development by Becky Rush, Felix Stephenson, Alexander Ivanov and Chris Ashton.