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Managing waiting times

Patients and visitors

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Waiting times

You have the right to access services for non-emergency outpatient and inpatient care within a certain amount of time.

The maximum waiting time is 18 weeks.

This starts from the date the hospital receives your referral letter.

The waiting time ends on the date you receive treatment for the condition for which you have been referred.

If you wait longer than 18 weeks, the NHS should take all reasonable steps to offer you a range of suitable alternative providers.

Help us manage our waiting list

Please look out for a text message from us.

Many patients have been waiting a long time to receive treatment due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. We are working hard to see patients as quickly as possible.

To help us understand if your circumstances have changed over the last year, we are using a new text message and online question service.

We have partnered with our digital solutions provider, DrDoctor to provide this service.

Follow the link in your text message to let us know if you still need your appointment.

Your response is crucially important to help us manage our waiting list.

If you receive a text from Guy's and St Thomas', please do not ignore it.

How it works

  1. If you are waiting for an appointment, we will send you a text message from +44 78 6003 9092 asking you to let us know if you still need an appointment.
  2. Follow the link in your message to reply. The link is trustworthy and delivered by our partner DrDoctor. DrDoctor is accredited to the highest standards set by the NHS for protecting the healthcare information of UK citizens. For more information, see the NHS Data and Protection Toolkit certification and DrDoctor's privacy policy.
  3. Once you have responded, we will ask you to verify your date of birth. If you are answering on behalf of someone else, please use the patient's date of birth. This is so the booking team can confirm the text message was sent to the right person. If the date of birth you give is different from the date of birth we have on record for you, we will be able to see this and follow up with you as appropriate.
  4. Depending on your response, you will either remain on our waiting list or, if you no longer need an appointment, we will discharge you back to the care team that referred you. If you have answered the question wrong, or want to change your answer, do not worry. You can go to answer the question again and you will find information about who to contact.

If you have a medical problem or concern, and are unsure what to do, please contact your usual healthcare provider (a GP, pharmacist or NHS 111) directly.

Managing your appointments

Your GP should have explained that you need to be ready and available to attend appointments within 18 weeks for a routine appointment.

If you have other commitments stopping you from attending, please talk about this with your GP. They may decide to delay your referral.

During your 18-week waiting time, you might need to:

  • attend outpatient appointments
  • have tests, scans or other procedures to help make decisions about your treatment
  • have medicine or therapy to manage your symptoms until you start treatment
  •  be referred to another consultant or department
  •  be added to a different waiting list for surgery

Agreeing dates for appointments

We will try to offer you a choice of dates for your first appointment.

Your GP may book your appointment through the e-referral service. This service offers direct access to hospital appointments.

Alternatively, the hospital will contact you to agree an appointment date.

If you need a follow-up appointment, diagnostic test or a date of admission, the hospital will contact you to agree a date.

If you are unable to agree a date for an appointment within 18 weeks you may be discharged back to the care of your GP.

Rearranging your appointment or admission

You can request to reschedule an appointment 1 time. This will have no impact on the waiting time.

However, more requests to reschedule an appointment might be declined and following clinical review of your case you may be referred back to the care of your GP.

Appointment dates changed by the hospital

We are committed to reducing hospital cancellation or rescheduling. We will take all reasonable steps to avoid changing your appointment or admission date.

If we do change the date of your appointment or admission, we will make sure this is rebooked for you as soon as possible.

Not attending your appointment or admission date

If you do not attend an appointment without letting us know, the clinician will review your case. They will decide whether it is appropriate for you to be discharged back to the care of your GP.

We will never routinely discharge children, vulnerable adults or cancer patients for failing to attend an appointment.

Delays to the waiting time

You might wait more than 18 weeks if:

  • you choose to delay treatment
  • delaying the start of treatment is in your best clinical interests – for example, where stopping smoking or losing weight is likely to improve the outcome of the treatment
  • it is clinically appropriate for your condition to be monitored without clinical intervention or diagnostic procedures at that stage
  • you do not attend appointments you had chosen from a set of reasonable options
  • the treatment is no longer necessary

When your waiting time ends

Your waiting time will end for one of the following 3 reasons:

  1. When you start receiving treatment for the condition for which you were referred. This might include:
      • being admitted to hospital for an operation or treatment
      • medicine provided to treat your condition as part of your outpatient appointment
      • having a treatment procedure performed as part of your outpatient appointment
  2. It is decided that treatment is not needed at this stage. Your condition might be monitored for a period of time by a clinician, or you may receive advice and guidance about how to manage your condition. You may be discharged back to your GP.
  3. You decide that you no longer need treatment for the condition for which you have been referred. You will then be discharged back to your GP.

If you feel you have waited too long

If you feel your treatment has not started within 18 weeks or you have concerns that you will not be treated within this time frame, please contact our PALS team.

The PALS team will pass your concerns onto the relevant manager for investigation.

For advice, support or to raise a concern, contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS). To make a complaint, contact the complaints department.


Phone: 020 7188 8801 



Phone: 020 7188 3514