A Nuffield Trust and Health Foundation programme

NHS performance tracker

Our monthly-updated analysis of the NHS's performance against totemic access and waiting times targets.



  • March saw the best performance since April 2022 on 62-day waits to begin cancer treatment, with 31% of patients waiting longer than this. This is close to the March 2025 objective of 30%, but still well beyond the 15% target.
  • In March 2024, the overall waiting list to start elective (planned) care appears to have remained stagnant compared to February at 7.54 million. 
  • In April 2024, 26% of people attending A&E spent more than four hours from arrival to admission, transfer or discharge, which is a slight improvement from the same month last year but still remains beyond the 24% target set for March 2024.


The analysis below includes the latest data on key activity and performance measures from March and April 2024, as published by NHS England on 9 May 2024. This includes data on the NHS's performance against some key targets, including some of those set out in the latest planning guidance, as well as other indicators of patient safety and care.

Planned hospital care and diagnostic test waiting times

  • The waiting list to start elective (planned) care appears to have remained almost unchanged from 7.54 million in February 2024 to 7.54 million in March. However, this coincided with the removal of approximately 7,000 community service pathways from the RTT dataset. When we account for this, the number of people waiting may have actually risen. This is the sixth month in a row the headline figure has stayed the same or decreased, standing 229,000 lower than in September 2023.
  • 6.29 million people were waiting to start elective care in March 2024. This is lower than the overall waiting list of 7.54 million because some people are waiting for multiple treatments.
  • There is a new objective to have no more people waiting over 65 weeks to start consultant-led elective treatment by September 2024 (except where patients choose to wait longer), replacing the objective for this to happen by March 2024. There were 49,000 waits this long in March 2024, a decrease of over 26,000 on the previous month.
  • The median time that patients had been on the waiting list was 14.9 weeks in March 2024. This is slightly higher than the previous month. Before the pandemic, in March 2019, the median wait was only 6.9 weeks.
  • The number of waits of over 52 weeks to start elective care stood at over 309,000 in March 2024 – a small increase after six months of sustained decrease. In March 2019, there were only 1,377 waits of over 52 weeks. The aim is to have nobody having to wait this long by March 2025.
  • 21% of people waited over six weeks for a diagnostic test in March 2024. This is a slight increase on the previous month, but the second-best performance seen since the start of the pandemic. However, it is far beyond the 1% target, as well as the objective of 5% by March 2025.

For more information, see our treatment waiting times and diagnostic test waiting times indicators. For information on the recategorisation of community service pathways, see the NHS statistical press notice.






Cancer waiting times

  • In March 2024, 36% of patients who had their first treatment for cancer following an urgent GP referral waited longer than two months. This is the best performance since April 2022. However, it is still far away from the target of only 15% of patients waiting this long.
  • The number of patients who waited longer than two months from an urgent GP referral to a first treatment for cancer was 5,692 in March 2024. When the 15% threshold target was last met in December 2015, only 1,704 patients waited more than two months for their first cancer treatment.
  • In December, NHS England began publishing new cancer waiting time standards. For the new standard concerning two-month waits from an urgent suspected cancer referral, or breast symptomatic referral, or urgent screening referral, or consultant upgrade to a first treatment for cancer, 31% waited longer than the target time to begin treatment in March 2024. This brings performance close to the new objective of reducing this proportion to 30% by March 2025. The 15% standard has not come close to being met during the period for which records are available.

For more information, see our cancer waiting time targets indicator. Data for the first cancer chart from April 2023 onwards has been derived from NHS England’s commissioner-based cancer waiting times data extract. This is due to changes in the cancer waiting times standards which have led to changes in the published national-level data. 



Emergency care


  • In April 2024, there were 2.23 million total attendances to A&E departments, the highest number of attendances on record (since 2010/11) for the month of April. This represents a 10% increase compared to the previous April, and also a 6% increase compared to before the pandemic in April 2019.
  • There was also a relatively high number of emergency admissions via A&E, reaching 404,000 in April 2024. This is 9% higher than in April 2023 but similar to admissions seen in the pre-pandemic period in April 2019 (405,000).
  • A little over a quarter (26%) of people attending A&E spent more than four hours from arrival to admission, transfer or discharge in April 2024. This is 1 percentage point better than April last year, but 11 percentage points worse than before the pandemic in April 2019.
  • Although close, performance against the four-hour target is yet to meet the March 2024 objective of 76% or fewer being seen within the target time. The long-standing 95% standard is irrefutably far from reach.
  • Trolley waits (the time between a decision to admit a patient and them being admitted) of over four hours decreased to just over 134,000 in April, compared to the previous month. However, this is 18% more than in April last year and double the number in April 2019 when there were about 67,000 instances of waits this long.
  • Trolley waits of over 12 hours decreased very slightly to 42,078 in April 2024. However, they were 58% higher than in April last year and significantly higher than before the pandemic.

For more information, see our A&E waiting times indicator.







  • In April 2024, there was an average response time of 8 minutes 10 seconds to Category 1 incidents (life-threatening conditions, such as cardiac or respiratory arrest), 10 seconds faster than March 2024, but still missing the seven-minute target. One in 10 people waited over 14 minutes 33 seconds, which means the 15-minute target was met. This is the best performance on record for Category 1 incidents in the past 12 months.
  • Response times to Category 2 incidents (emergency conditions such as stroke or heart attack) improved by three and a half minutes in April 2024, with an average response time of 30 minutes 22 seconds. This is still far from the mean target of 18 minutes.

    Note that Category 1 response times for the London Ambulance Service from 19 August 2020 to 22 September 2022 were under-reported, so the actual mean response time during that period was an average of 54 seconds longer than shown.

For more information, see our ambulance response times indicator. 



About this data

QualityWatch provides independent scrutiny of the health and social care system. The most recent data published today reflects changes in access and waiting times in the aftermath of the pandemic.

Between May 2019 and May 2023, in response to proposals made in the Clinically-Led Review of NHS Access Standards Interim Report, 14 hospital trusts acted as field testing sites for alternatives to the existing four-hour A&E standard. During this period, these trusts did not report performance on the four-hour standard and are hence absent from the data for May 2019 to May 2023. Reporting on the findings of the Clinical Review of Standards for Urgent and Emergency Care is now available.

For interactive charts showing the quality of health and social care over time, please refer to our 200+ indicators.