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 are also included.

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, which resulted in most operations being cancelled far in advance of their planned date. As Scotland moved into Phase 2 of the 'lockdown', from the 19 June, Boards started to resume some services as part of the planned remobilisation of services (external website), which will include the rescheduling of cancelled procedures.

Main points

  • The total number of planned operations across NHSScotland during October 2020 was 18,142, an increase of 6.4% from 17,056 in September 2020 and a decrease of 37.7% from 29,137 in October 2019.
  • In October 2020, 1,370 operations, or 7.6% of all planned operations, were cancelled the day before or on the day the patient was due to be treated. This compares to 1,120 (6.6%) in September and 2,481 (8.5%) in October 2019. At Health Board level this percentage ranged from 1.8% to 9.8%.
  • In October 2020, of all planned operations cancelled in this way:
    • 341 (1.9%) were cancelled by the patient
    • 611 (3.4%) were cancelled by the hospital based on clinical reasons
    • 366 (2%) were cancelled by the hospital due to capacity or non-clinical reasons
    • 52 (0.3%) were cancelled due to other reasons.
Image caption Percentage of total planned operations by reasons for cancellation, up to October 2020
This is a line chart showing data on the total percentage of patients in NHS Scotland who had their Planned Operation Cancelled for the reasons of clinical, non clinical/capacity, cancelled by patient and other reason. Data is from October 2019 to October 2020. A red vertical line at March 2020 shows the point where the NHS was placed under emergency measures to the COVID-19 pandemic. The data shows a peak in non-clinical/capacity reasons in March 2020 due to the emergency measures.


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 January 2021.

NHS Performs

A selection of information from this publication is included in NHS Performs (external website). NHS Performs 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: 13 June 2022
Was this page helpful?