About this release

This release by Public Health Scotland reports on completed patient pathways covered by the 18 weeks Referral to Treatment (RTT) standard (90% of patients being treated within 18 weeks of referral) up to 31 December 2021. 

All Boards have encountered significant pressure on local information and intelligence resources due to the additional demands arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, data submitted since the onset of the pandemic may not have been subjected to the usual levels of quality assurance. In addition, NHS Grampian have been unable to submit data since February 2020 and NHS Tayside have been unable to submit data since May 2021. This should be taken into consideration when interpreting the statistics shown.

Main points

  • Across NHSScotland (excluding NHS Grampian and NHS Tayside), 215,411 patients were treated under this standard during the quarter ending 31 December 2021, a decrease of 5,171 (2.4%) from the previous quarter. Within the latest quarter there were 66,322 patients treated in October, then 81,943 in November before dropping to 67,146 in December. The number treated in the latest quarter compares to a quarterly average of 272,779 during 2019 prior to the onset of the pandemic, down 21.6%.
  • The quarterly increase in the number of patients seen nationally was reflected across the majority of Boards, however six Boards experienced a decrease in activity of varying proportions, ranging from 15.8% in NHS Orkney to 2.5% in NHS Highland.
  • 84.7% of the patient journeys (excluding NHS Grampian and NHS Tayside) completed during this quarter were fully measurable against the 18-week standard. Of these, 74.4% of patients were reported as being treated within 18 weeks of referral; this is 0.7% lower than in the previous quarter and 5.2% lower than the quarterly average during 2019 prior to the onset of the pandemic.
Image caption Total number of eligible journeys (patients seen) and percentage of measurable waits completed within 18 weeks, by month, December 2018 to December 2021


The 18 Weeks RTT standard applies to the entire patient journey from the initial referral to the start of treatment. Achieving the standard depends on waiting times for diagnostic tests, new outpatient appointments, inpatient and day case treatment. 18 Weeks RTT performance is based on adjusted waits for consultant led treatments and fully measurable completed patient journeys

The services involved continue to be affected by COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic. In the early stages of the outbreak most non-urgent treatment was paused or reduced and there were fewer referrals to services. Since then services have been remobilising (external website) but capacity is constrained by the requirement for additional infection control measures. In addition, further waves of the virus have slowed the recovery of services due to the need to again pause or reduce services for reasons such as increased staff absence or the need to divert resources because of an increase in unscheduled hospitalisations.

Further information

Information on the 18 weeks RTT standard and the data collected can be found on the waiting times section of our website. Open data from this publication are available from the Scottish Health and Social Care Open Data platform

The next release of this publication will be 31 May 2022.

NHS Performs

A selection of information from this publication is included in NHS Performs, 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.

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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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