About this release

This release by Public Health Scotland (PHS) provides a monthly update on the number of operations in NHSScotland that were cancelled the day before, or on the day the patient was due to be treated. Information on the reasons for cancellations is also included.

It should be highlighted that these statistics are affected by the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak. In particular, on the 17 March, NHSScotland was placed under emergency measures and Boards were asked to suspend all non-urgent elective treatment. Later, on the 23 March, the nation entered a period of ‘lockdown’. This means many operations planned for April were cancelled long before they were due to take place.

Main points

  • The total number of planned operations during June 2020 was 6,984, an increase of 69.7% from 4,120 in May 2020 and a decrease of 74.1% from 26,941 during June 2019.
  • In June 2020, 465 operations, or 6.7% of all planned operations, were cancelled the day before or on the day the patient was due to be treated. This compares to 311 (7.5%) in May 2020 and 2,348 (8.7%) in June 2019. At Health Board level this percentage ranged from 1.4% to 16.7%.
  • In June 2020, of all planned operations cancelled in this way:
    • 114 (1.6%) were cancelled by the patient
    • 242 (3.5%) were cancelled by the hospital based on clinical reasons
    • 76 (1.1%) were cancelled by the hospital due to capacity or non-clinical reasons
    • 33 (0.5%) were cancelled due to other reasons.


Image caption Percentage of total planned operations by reasons for cancellation, up to June 2020
Chart showing the percentage of patients in NHS Scotland who had their Planned Operation Cancelled between May 2019 to June 2020, broken down by cancellation reason. Between May 2019 and February 2020 cancellation reasons were relatively stable: cancellations for clinical reasons and cancellations made by the patient both were consisitently around three percent. Cancellations due to non-clincal/capacity reasons were around two percent. In March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic started, cancellations rose, with cancellations due to non-clinical/capacity resons peaking at six percent in March and reducing down to pre-pandemic levels in May and June.


These statistics are released monthly. Data for this publication are submitted from NHS Board theatre systems.

The following definitions are used for the cancellation reason groupings:

  • Cancellation based on clinical reason by hospital includes patient unwell, patient not prepared for procedure correctly by hospital and patient did not follow pre op instruction
  • Cancellation based on capacity or non-clinical reason by hospital includes no beds available, staff not available, equipment not available and theatre session overran
  • Cancellation by patient includes patient decides not to go ahead with procedure, patient unable to attend, patient did not attend and patient did not attend pre-op
  • Other includes fire alarm prevents operation from taking place, weather prevented patient / staff travelling and patient transport did not arrive in time to bring patient to hospital.

Further information

Data from this publication is available to download from the data files section at the top of this page. Open data is available from the Scottish Health and Social Care Open Data platform (external website).

For more information on cancelled planned operations see the cancelled planned operations section. For related topics, please see the waiting times pages on the Data and Intelligence website (external website).

The next release of this publication will be September 2020.

NHS Performs

A selection of information from this publication is included in NHS Performs. NHS Performs (external website) 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.waitingtimes@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: 07 October 2022
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