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.

Main points

  • The total number of planned operations across NHSScotland during December 2021 was 17,836. This represents a decrease of 13.4% from 20,587 in November 2021 but is 6.5% higher than the number planned in December 2020. When comparing to December 2019, prior to the pandemic, there was a 30.8% decrease in planned operations, down from 25,791.
Image caption Total planned operations and percentage of cancelled planned operations, by reason, up to December 2021
  • In December 2021, 1,462 operations, or 8.2% of all planned operations, were cancelled the day before or on the day the patient was due to be treated. This compares to 1,605 (7.8%) in November 2021, 1,257 (7.5%) in December 2020 and 2,617 (10.1%) in December 2019. At NHS Board level this percentage ranged from 5% to 12% during the latest month.
  • Of all planned operations during December 2021, 557 (3.1%) were cancelled by the hospital based on clinical reasons, 394 (2.2%) were cancelled by the hospital due to capacity or non-clinical reasons, 443 (2.5%) were cancelled by the patient and 68 (0.4%) were cancelled due to other reasons.


These statistics are released monthly. Data for this publication are submitted from NHS Board theatre systems. Further information on the reasons for cancellation can be found on the Cancelled Planned Operations section of our website.

These statistics continue to be affected by COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic. Following the early stages of the outbreak when many services were paused or reduced and there were fewer referrals to services, Boards started to gradually resume services in the summer of 2020 as part of the planned remobilisation of services. However, as the pandemic has evolved with further waves of high infection rates and increased hospitalisations, there continues to be periods where some Boards have to temporarily pause or limit access to non-urgent elective care. This has been evident in recent months.

Further information

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

A selection of information from this publication is included in NHS Performs (external website).

The next release of this publication will be 1 March 2022.

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: 21 March 2024
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