About this release

This release by Public Health Scotland (PHS) presents the quarterly update of Cancer Waiting Times statistics. It reports on the two waiting times standards used to measure how long patients have waited for their first cancer treatment. Data for the quarter ending June 2020 are presented by NHS Board, Regional Cancer Network and cancer type. This release covers only those patients who started their first treatment by the end of June 2020 and the effects of the coronavirus pandemic have impacted the results. The reduction in eligible referrals is likely to be due to a combination of patients not seeking out help so as to be referred, and because of delays in patients having diagnostic tests and/or starting treatment because hospitals have been treating Covid-19 patients. During the whole of this quarter, the three Cancer Screening Services were paused and no new invitations to the Programmes were sent out.

Main points

The 62-day standard states that 95% of eligible patients will wait a maximum of 62 days from referral to first cancer treatment.

  • There were 3,056 eligible referrals for the 62-day standard in the period April to June 2020, a decrease of 22% on the same period in 2019.
  • 84.1% of patients started treatment within the 62-day standard, compared to 84.7% in the previous quarter, and 82.4% for quarter ending June 2019.
  • The 62-day standard was not met by any NHS Boards. NHS Boards’ performance ranged from 71.4% (NHS Orkney) to 94.9% (NHS Ayrshire & Arran).

The 31-day standard states that 95% of all patients will wait no more than 31 days from decision to treat to first cancer treatment.

  • There were 5,056 eligible referrals within the 31-day standard in the period April to June 2020, a decrease of 23% on the same period in 2019.
  • 97.1% of patients started treatment within the 31-day standard, compared with 96.1% in the previous quarter and 94.7% for quarter ending June 2019.
  • The 31-day standard was met by 14 NHS Boards. The Board that did not meet the standard was NHS Grampian (94.5%).
Image caption NHS Scotland performance against the 62 and 31-day standards1
Line graph showing the percentage of patients that were treated within both the 31 and 62-day standards by quarter. Data for the 31 and 62-day standards are shown in different colours.
  1. Figures based on data snapshot (28/08/2020) using patient-level data.


The current standards for cancer waiting times are that 95% of all eligible patients should wait no longer than 31 or 62 days (Action Plan). The 5% tolerance level is because for some patients, it may not be clinically appropriate for treatment to begin within the target time. PHS works in partnership with the Scottish Government Cancer Performance Support Team and NHS Boards to measure NHS Scotland’s performance against these National Standards. The standards are for 10 main cancer types.

The 62-day standard applies to patients urgently referred with a suspicion of cancer by a primary care clinician, screened positive patients referred through a national cancer screening programme, and, direct referrals to hospital where the signs and symptoms are consistent with the cancer diagnosed as per the Scottish Referral Guidelines e.g. self-referral to A&E.

The 31-day standard applies to all patients, regardless of the route of referral. Golden Jubilee National Hospital is only reported against the 31-day standard as it is only involved in treatment.

Further information

Data from this publication are available from the the data files section of this page.

The next release of this publication will be 15 December 2020.

Some information from this publication is included in NHS Performs (external website), which brings together information on how hospitals and NHS Boards within NHSScotland are performing.

General enquiries

If you have an enquiry relating to this publication, please email phs.cancerwaitsnew@phs.scot.

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If you have a media enquiry relating to this publication, please contact the Communications and Engagement team.

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Older versions of this publication

Versions of this publication released before 16 March 2020 may be found on the Data and Intelligence, Health Protection Scotland or Improving Health websites.

Last updated: 28 June 2021
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