Lay Summary

The NHS is increasingly failing to meet waiting time targets for the diagnosis and treatment of cancers. This situation has been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. There is a need for interventions and policies to help reduce cancer waiting times, as delayed diagnosis and treatment can lead to poorer outcomes for patients. New policies could include, for example, different approaches to prioritise patients who are most at risk, increased staffing level or reorganisation of existing staff, or the use of new technologies that can reduce waiting times (for example, by reducing the number of tests needed to diagnose certain types of cancer).

Choosing which policies should be used and how, requires understanding of their costs and benefits in terms of the reduction in waiting times and the improvement in patient outcomes. However, policies for reducing waiting times are complex, and therefore require more complex analytical methods than those commonly used to evaluate the benefits of healthcare interventions such as pharmaceuticals (drugs). For example, a decision to increase staff level may take several years to implement if more staff need to be trained to achieve this. As result, novel approaches to evaluate the benefits of policies for reducing cancer waiting times are needed, to take these complexities into consideration.

This project will develop the methodology for evaluating policies for reducing cancer waiting times using a case study in one area of cancer, and demonstrating how the methods developed can be applied to tackle waiting times for other cancer and other diseases.