About this release

This release by Public Health Scotland (PHS) provides an update on how long patients wait for a first outpatient appointment at Allied Health Professional (AHP) led Musculoskeletal (MSK) services. The Scottish Government has determined that at least 90% of patients should wait no longer than four weeks to be seen from receipt of referral. Scotland totals reported in this release exclude data for patients treated in NHS Borders for all professions and time points because of data quality issues affecting their submissions to PHS via the national waiting times warehouse.

Main points

During the quarter ending 31 March 2023:

  • 71,235 patients were seen at a first outpatient appointment, an increase of 4.8% from the quarter ending 31 December 2022 and of 26.2% from a year ago. This level remains 10.2% fewer than the average during quarters of 2019, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Image caption Patients seen and proportion within 4 weeks, January 2019 - March 2023
  • 51.8% of patients were seen within the target of four weeks of referral, similar to the previous quarter (51.7%) and higher than the average in 2019 (45.1%). Of those patients who experienced longer waits, 5.5% waited 24 weeks or more compared to 6.6% in the previous quarter and 2.2% in 2019.
  • There were 97,049 referrals to MSK services, higher than the previous quarter (87,831 referrals), but fewer than the average of 109,597 referrals received during each quarter in 2019.

At the end of the quarter on 31 March 2023:

  • 67,795 patients were waiting to be seen, a slight increase of 1.0% compared to 31 December 2022 but 3.7% less than a year ago at 31 March 2022. The waiting list is slightly lower than the average at the end of quarters during 2019 prior to the pandemic (70,869 patients).


The AHP MSK data collection covers Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Chiropody/Podiatry and Orthotics services. It also covered the NHS24 Musculoskeletal Advice and Triage Service (MATS) service from May 2017 until March 2020.

AHP MSK data are mainly sourced from the national waiting times warehouse with aggregate data submitted by NHS Boards as required. Data gaps and data drawn from a number of sources should be taken into consideration when interpreting the statistics.

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.

Further information

The next release of this publication will be 19 September 2023.

General enquiries

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

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

Requesting other formats and reporting issues

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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: 20 November 2023
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