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Targets and prioritisation: the case of cancer in the English NHS

From 1999 onwards, patients judged by their general practitioners (GPs) to require urgent access to care for suspected cancer have been referred under the so-called two-week wait rule, or fast track, which guaranteed that they would be seen in a hospital clinic within that period. The two-week wait was introduced in the belief that England’s relatively poor cancer outcomes were due, at least in part, to delays in accessing care. This paper assesses the impact of the two-week wait against a number of criteria. Although the NHS has largely succeeded in meeting this target, there is little evidence that it has improved outcomes.


Anthony J Harrison, Catherine S Foot

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