About this release

This release by Public Health Scotland (PHS) reports on the length of time patients waited for a first appointment with a pain management service. These services provide chronic pain assessment and management and are delivered by multi-disciplinary teams.

Main points

  • During the quarter ending 30 June 2022, 5,172 patients were referred to a chronic pain clinic. This is an increase of 7.2% compared to the previous quarter, when 4,825 patients were referred. Referrals have increased by 4.5% compared to a year earlier, when 4,949 patients were referred during the quarter ending 30 June 2021.
  • There were 1,835 patients seen at a consultant-led chronic pain clinic during the quarter ending 30 June 2022, compared to 2,122 in the previous quarter, a decrease of 13.5%. Of these, 1,320 (71.9%) waited 12 weeks or less, 178 (9.7%) waited between 13 and 24 weeks, 329 patients (17.9%) waited between 25 and 51 weeks and 8 patients (0.4%) waited 52 weeks or more.

Distribution of wait for patients seen at a Chronic Pain clinic during the quarters ending 31 March 2022 and 30 June 20221

Note 1: Data for NHS Orkney for the quarter ending 31 March 2022 has been excluded from the data behind this chart pending a resubmission due to inaccuracies.

  • The number of patients seen initially at a consultant-led clinic is now lower than prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, when an average of just under 3,000 patients were seen per quarter during 2019. This is largely due to some NHS Boards introducing new pathways that offer patients alternatives to being seen at a consultant-led outpatient clinic. Patients are removed from waiting lists if they take up this offer.
  • At 30 June 2022, 3,853 patients were waiting for their first appointment at a chronic pain clinic. This compares to 3,186 patients at 31 March 2022, an increase of 20.9%. Over the previous year, the number of patients waiting to be seen for their first appointment has increased by 49.6% from 2,576 patients at 30 June 2021.
  • The number of patients waiting remains lower than in 2019, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, when on average just under 5,000 patients were waiting at the end of each quarter. The waiting list reduced significantly between October 2020 and March 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, when the number of referrals was still lower than prior to the pandemic and was greatly exceeded by the number of patients completing their waits.


Chronic pain is pain that carries on for longer than 12 weeks despite medication or treatment. Further information can be found on the NHS Inform website.

The data presented here have been adjusted for periods of patient unavailability. Any adjustments are based on the NHSScotland Waiting Times Guidance.

The data presented in this release continue to be impacted by measures put in place to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. After being temporarily paused in March 2020, chronic pain services started to resume in June as part of the planned remobilisation of services. In September, a Framework for Recovery of NHS Pain Management Services was published with further guidance on the resumption and continuation of services.

For the NHS Boards who submit data on pain psychology clinics, further detail is available in the data tables and the publication report.

Further information

The next release of this publication will be 13 December 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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