About this release

This release by Public Health Scotland (PHS) contains an update on how long patients wait for a first outpatient appointment at Allied Health Professional (AHP) led Musculoskeletal (MSK) services. MSK conditions (external website) affect joints, bones, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, tendon sheaths, bursa and muscles. The data in this release covers Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Chiropody/Podiatry and Orthotics, and the Musculoskeletal Advice and Triage Service (MATS) operated by NHS24. The Scottish Government has determined that at least 90% of patients should wait no longer than four weeks to be seen by these services from receipt of referral.

Main points

During the quarter ending 30 June 2021:

  • 59,480 patients were seen at a first outpatient appointment at an AHP-led clinic for MSK conditions, an increase of 30.3% compared with the quarter ending 31 March 2021. This remains fewer than the 80,676 patients seen on average during the quarters in 2019, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although virtual appointments continued to be used widely, some NHS Boards reported a trend towards a resumption of face to face appointments.
Image caption Patients seen and proportion within 4 weeks – across Scotland – from January 2019 to June 2021
A chart presenting AHP MSK patient seen information with:
- columns showing the number of patients seen per month, January 2019 - June 2021
- a line showing the percentage of patients seen within 4 weeks of referral, by month January 2019 - June 2021
  • 58.2% of patients were seen within the target of four weeks of referral. This is a decrease from 64.2% during the quarter ending 31 March 2021, but higher than 45.3% of patients in 2019.
  • 93,832 patients were referred to services across Scotland, an increase of 41.5% compared with the previous quarter but still fewer than the quarterly average of 111,116 referrals received in 2019.
  • The number of new referrals exceeded the number of patients ending their wait, either because they were seen or were removed from waiting lists for other reasons, and so by the end of the quarter the number of patients waiting had increased by 33.9%. There were 55,134 patients waiting compared to 41,167 patients at 31 March 2021. However, this is 23.8% fewer that the 72,307 patients who were waiting on average at quarter ends during 2019.


The statistics presented in this release are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has changed referral and treatment patterns within these services.

References made to Scotland data exclude MATS data due to the continued suspension of the helpline since March 2020. Previously published aggregate data is included for NHS Borders and NHS Lanarkshire as historical data remains impacted by a problem with a software update to their local Patient Management System last year. NHS Western Isles Occupational Therapy data has been excluded, as the Morse Patient Management System does not currently support national reporting. Aggregate data for NHS Fife Chiropody/Podiatry is included as technical issues prevent national warehouse submissions from the TIARA system. Information on data submitted for each board and profession is available for all time periods and is footnoted in the data tables.

The waiting time used for this target is an adjusted waiting time, with adjustments made up to 4 weeks based on the NHSScotland Waiting Times Guidance (external website).

Further information

The next release of this publication will be 21 December 2021.

General enquiries

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

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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: 13 June 2022
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