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 March 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. This should be taken into consideration when interpreting the statistics shown.

Main points

  • Excluding NHS Grampian, between April and November 2020 the number of patients treated under this standard rose from a low of 27,900, to 73,886. There was a dip during the recent winter months, as COVID-19 cases increased and some non-urgent care was paused. In March 2021, 89,311 eligible patient journeys were recorded, compared with 67,529 in December 2020 (+32.3%), and 92,875 in February 2020 (-3.8%).
Total number of eligible journeys (patients seen) and % waits completed within 18 weeks, NHSScotland, November 2011 to March 2021
  1. The number of eligible journeys reflects the total number of patients seen each month.
  2. NHS Grampian figures are not available for March 2020 to March 2021.
  • Most NHS Boards report an increase in patients seen between December 2020 and March 2021; however, this varies across Scotland. NHS Fife report a small reduction (-16%), in contrast NHS Lothian and NHS Lanarkshire report the largest increases (+61% and 73% respectively).
  • 78.9% of the 89,311 patient journeys (excluding NHS Grampian) completed during March 2021 were fully measurable against the 18-week standard. Of these, 74.9% of patients were reported as being treated within 18 weeks of referral; this has increased from the low reported in August 2020 (67.2%) but remains lower than February 2020 (77.9%).


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. PHS produces separate publications for diagnostic tests, new outpatient appointments, inpatient and day case treatment, available on the waiting times page of the Data and Intelligence website (external website).

These statistics continue to be affected by the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic. There was a dramatic fall in the number of eligible patients recorded as being treated under this standard when the pandemic began and non-urgent services were initially paused. Since then the number treated has been increasing as services re-mobilise.

Further information

In absence of a detailed report this quarter, please refer to the PHS Data and Intellgience website for background information (external website) on the 18 weeks RTT standard, data collection processes and quality assurance.

The next release of this publication will be 24 August 2021.

NHS Performs

Information from this publication is included in NHS Performs (external website), 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: 15 July 2021
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