About this release

This quarterly release by Public Health Scotland (PHS) relates to the number of ongoing waits for one of eight key diagnostic tests at 31 December 2023 and the lengths of wait experienced so far. The eight key diagnostic tests are upper endoscopy, lower endoscopy (excl. colonoscopy), colonoscopy, cystoscopy, CT scan, MRI scan, barium studies and non-obstetric ultrasound. Please note that individual patients are counted more than once if they are waiting for more than one diagnostic test, so the national statistics released here do not necessarily reflect the actual number of individuals involved. Therefore, the terminology used in the publication is specifically aimed at preventing misinterpretation of statistics. Please refer to the full report for further detail.

Main points

Image caption Trend in ongoing waits and percentage of waits ongoing for six weeks or less at month-end, by test, NHSScotland, 30 March 2019 to 31 December 2023

At 31 December 2023:

  • The total waiting list size (number of ongoing waits) for the eight key tests combined was 144,234. This represents a 5% (-7,417) reduction from the previous quarter-end when there were 151,651 ongoing waits, and is the lowest figure observed since quarter-ending December 2021 (141,262). However, this figure remains higher than prior to when the COVID-19 pandemic began to significantly impact service provision. For instance, it remains almost two-thirds (63%) higher than at the end of February 2020 when there were 88,301 waits ongoing.
  • This quarterly decrease is largely due to non-obstetric ultrasound, as waits for this test notably decreased compared to the previous quarter-end by 11% (-7,591), with additional reductions in CT (-4%, -925) and MRI (-2%, -403). However, not all tests decreased, with the largest increase observed for cystoscopy (+12%, +600), followed by upper endoscopy (+5%, +485) and colonoscopy (+3%, +445).
  • Of these, 48% had not yet exceeded the six-week standard. However, there was variation across tests, with just 24% of waits for a lower endoscopy ongoing for six weeks or less compared to 75% for a barium study.
  • The number of waits that had been ongoing over 26 weeks decreased from 16,459 at the end of September to 15,249 (-7%). Similarly, there was a decrease in the number of waits that were ongoing over 52 weeks, decreasing from 3,628 to 3,540 (-2%).
  • Radiology tests account for the most waits 26-52 weeks (53%) while endoscopy tests account for the most waits over 52 weeks (84%). However, there is variation between tests. For example, the number of waits that had been ongoing over 26 weeks for a non-obstetric ultrasound decreased by 24% (-1,515) compared to September, while those for a CT increased by 17% (+186). Similarly, the number of ongoing waits over 52 weeks for an upper endoscopy decreased by 33% (-231), while those for a lower endoscopy also decreased but to a much lesser extent, by 3% (-27).

Further information

Data from this publication are available from the publication page on our website.

Open data from this publication is available from the Scottish Health and Social Care Open Data platform.

The next release of this publication will be 28 May 2024.

NHS Performs

A selection of information from this publication is included in NHS Performs. 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 contact Rob Gibbs at 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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