Waiting Times


Long waiting times for health services have been an important policy issue in most OECD countries for many years. Governments in many countries have taken various measures over the past two decades to reduce waiting times, often supported by additional funding, with mixed success.

Waiting times for elective treatment stalled between 2010 and 2019 in many countries, and had started to rise in some countries even before the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 outbreak is likely to result in at least some temporary increases in waiting times for non-urgent services in all the OECD countries that have been hard hit.


Waiting Times for Health Services (2019-20)


Released on 28 May 2020


The publication Waiting Times for Health Services: Next in Line aims to review the importance of waiting times across OECD countries and assess different policies to reduce waiting times, based on a framework that incorporates both supply-side and demand-side measures. It provides an overview of how waiting times differ across OECD countries up to 2019, focussing on waiting times for consultations with general practitioners (GPs), specialist consultations and elective treatments. It reviews a range of policy interventions that countries have used to tackle waiting times for different services, including elective surgery, primary care, cancer care and mental health services, with a focus on identifying successful policies.




OECD project on Waiting Times (2011-13)

The previous OECD publication on waiting times, Waiting Time Policies in the Health Sector - What Works?, reviewed different policy approaches to tackle excessive waiting times for elective surgery up to 2011, drawing on the results from 13 country case studies.

An OECD Health Working Paper also described how waiting times were measured in OECD countries, and made recommendations for best practices.

First OECD project on Waiting Times (2001-03)

The first OECD project on waiting times was carried out in the early 2000s. It was designed to compare policies to reduce waiting times for elective surgery across selected OECD countries and investigate the causes of variations in waiting times. Two working papers were released as part of this first project:

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