Usher Institute

Bowel cancer waiting times figures revealed

Some bowel cancer patients in the UK wait up to a year to start treatment, a study shows.

Researchers found it took one year or more from first spotting a symptom to beginning treatment for 10 per cent of patients in England, Northern Ireland and Wales.

Ten per cent of patients in Scotland waited more than eight months between first spotting a symptom and starting treatment, the findings show.

One in 15 men and one in 18 women in the UK will be diagnosed with bowel cancer in their lifetime, making it the fourth most common cancer type.

International study

The study, led by the University of Edinburgh, examined anonymised medical records. It also included questionnaires completed by almost 3000 patients and their doctors in countries including Australia, the UK and Canada.

Researchers found that men and women in Wales took the longest to contact their doctor once they had noticed a health concern or symptom.

Overall, patients in Wales also waited the longest time between noticing a change and beginning treatment, an average of 168 days.


This compared with 120 days in Scotland and 77 days in Denmark, where the process was shortest.

Researchers worked with the International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership (ICBP) – a collaboration between countries with similar healthcare systems and high-quality data.

Scientists say that by comparing healthcare systems in similar countries, experts can help identify differences and initiate improvements in diagnosis worldwide.

These findings show there is real potential to speed up the time between spotting a symptom and treatment. Further research is needed to understand these differences and build on what is working well in other countries to give patients in the UK the best possible care.

Professor David WellerUsher Institute, University of Edinburgh


 Ensuring cancer services are adequately staffed and have the equipment so patients receive the right tests in good time must be a priority.

Gregor McNieCancer Research UK

The study was co-ordinated by Cancer Research UK and is published in the British Medical Journal Open.

Related links

Original Paper