About this release

This release by Public Health Scotland (PHS) provides an update of key statistics on attendances at Accident and Emergency (A&E) services across Scotland.

The information includes trends in the number of attendances and admissions and performance against the 4 hour standard. Please take into account the notes and metadata when interpreting this data.

Main points

Attendances at A&E services in NHSScotland has seen a large drop since March 2020, this will be due to the measures put in place to respond to COVID-19.

During December 2020:

  • There were 93,829 attendances at A&E services in Scotland.
  • 86.4% of attendances at A&E services were seen and resulted in a subsequent admission, transfer or discharge within 4 hours.
  • 2,289 (2.5%) patients spent more than 8 hours in an A&E department.
  • 634 (0.7%) patients spent more than 12 hours in an A&E department.
  • 31% of attendances led to an admission to hospital.


Since 2007, the national standard (external website) for A&E is that 95 percent of patients to wait no longer than 4 hours from arrival to admission, discharge or transfer for A&E treatment. This standard is seen as a milestone towards returning to the 98% standard. This standard applies to all attendances for emergency care including attendances in trolleyed areas of assessment units as well as Emergency Departments (ED) and minor injury units (MIU).

Time spent in A&E is subject to seasonal variation, and this publication includes rolling annual statistics covering a full year of data as well as information based on activity for the latest month. The detailed A&E analysis is supplied online in an Excel Workbook with interactive tables and charts showing: number of attendances, patients spending over 4, 8 and 12 hours in A&E and destination on discharge from A&E by NHS Board, hospital and for all Emergency Departments. A data file (csv format) containing data by hospital and month is also available.

Changes to the way people access A&E were implemented on 3 December 2020 help people get the right care in the right place. For more information see The Scottish Government website (external website).

This new approach will keep people and NHS Scotland safe by ensuring A&E provides the fastest and most appropriate care for people when they really need it.

While people should continue to call 999 or go directly to A&E in emergencies, those with non-life threatening conditions who would usually visit A&E should call NHS 24 on 111 – day or night. People can also continue to call their GP practice for urgent care or access help online from NHSinform.scot.

NHS 24 assess people by telephone and can refer them to the right care by the right healthcare professional and as close to home as possible. If A&E is the most appropriate service to provide that care, NHS 24 will make a referral to A&E where a telephone or video consultation may be offered by A&E staff. This will help keep people safe and avoid unnecessary travel to hospital. If a face-to-face consultation is necessary, the nearest A&E may arrange an appointment to avoid waiting in crowded areas wherever possible.

This means that the data presented in the weekly and monthly publications will change over time. PHS will include information on planned attendances as a separate analysis. These planned attendances will not be included in the 4 hour standard statistics.

Find out more

Further information can be found on the Emergency Care pages (external website) of the Data and Intelligence website.

The weekly Emergency Department Activity and Waiting Times publication was also released on 2 February 2021 including new data for the week ending Sunday 24 January 2020. This publication covers Emergency Departments only and is derived from aggregate information supplied by NHS Boards on the number of attendances and 4, 8, and 12 hour waits.

NHS Performs

A selection of information from this publication is included in NHS Performs (external website) which is a website that brings together a range of information on how hospitals and NHS Boards within NHSScotland are performing.

General enquiries

If you have an enquiry relating to this publication, please email phs.unscheduledcare@phs.scot.

Media enquiries

If you have a media enquiry relating to this publication, please contact the Communications and Engagement team.

Requesting other formats and reporting issues

If you require publications or documents in other formats, please email phs.otherformats@phs.scot.

To report any issues with a publication, please email phs.generalpublications@phs.scot.

Older versions of this publication

Versions of this publication released before 16 March 2020 may be found on the Data and Intelligence, Health Protection Scotland or Improving Health websites.

Last updated: 21 March 2024
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