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. 

This publication includes a revision of statistics to correct small inaccuracies. A revision statement is available.

Main points

  • During the quarter ending 31 December 2022, 4,787 patients were referred to a chronic pain clinic, a decrease of 4.8% on the previous quarter, when 5,026 patients were referred. Referrals are similar to a year earlier, when there were 4,937 during the quarter ending 31 December 2021 and are now back to levels seen prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • There were 1,890 patients seen at a consultant-led chronic pain clinic during the quarter ending 31 December 2022, compared to 1,985 in the previous quarter, a decrease of 4.8%. Of these patients, 1,227 (64.9%) waited 12 weeks or less, 221 (11.7%) waited between 13 and 24 weeks, 378 patients (20.0%) waited between 25 and 51 weeks and 64 patients (3.4%) waited 52 weeks or more.
Image caption Distribution of wait for patients seen at a Chronic Pain clinic during the quarters ending 30 September 2022 and 31 December 2022
  • 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 31 December 2022, 4,118 patients were waiting for their first appointment at a chronic pain clinic. This compares to 4,208 patients at 30 September 2022, a decrease of 2.1% and the first reduction in the size of the waiting list since March 2021. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the number of patients completing their waits exceeded the number of referrals, the waiting list reduced significantly from an average of just under 5,000 patients waiting at the end of quarters in 2019 to just 2,375 patients waiting at end of March 2021. However, until the latest quarter, the number of patients waiting had been increasing. 


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 June 2023.

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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