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 March 2023 and the lengths of wait experienced. 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 official statistics shown here and in previous publications do not reflect the actual number of individuals involved. The terminology across this publication has therefore been changed to prevent misinterpretation of statistics. Please refer to the full report for further detail.

Main points

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

At 31 March 2023:

  • The number of ongoing waits for one of the eight key diagnostic tests remains higher than prior to when the COVID-19 pandemic began to impact service provision in March 2020. The total waiting list size for the eight key tests combined was 152,567, an increase of 2.9% (+4,311) compared to the previous quarter-end. This was a consequence of increases for seven of the eight tests with only the number of ongoing waits for cystoscopy reducing (-151). An increase in the number of waits for a non-obstetric ultrasound account for two-thirds (+2,884) of the overall rise.
  • Of these, 52.1% had not yet exceeded the six-week standard. However, there was variation across tests, from 26.9% of waits ongoing for six weeks or less for a lower endoscopy, compared to 81% for a barium study.
  • There was a reduction in the number of ongoing waits that were ongoing for a longer period of time. Compared to the previous quarter-end, the number of waits ongoing for over 26 weeks reduced from 14,433 to 13,670 (-5.3%) and those over 52 weeks reduced from 4,638 to 3,773 (-18.7%).
  • However, there was variation between tests. For example, the number of waits for an upper endoscopy that had been ongoing over 52 weeks increased by 11.3% (+75), while those for a colonoscopy decreased by 22.7% (-500). Similarly, the number of waits for a CT test that had been ongoing over 26 weeks increased by 59.1% (+449) while those for a non-obstetric ultrasound decreased by 17.9% (-795).


These statistics continue to be impacted by COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic.

Further background information on NHS Scotland Waiting Times, including diagnostics, can be found in CEL 33 (2012).

Further information

For more information see the Waiting Times section of our website. PHS have developed an animation, with further explanations of how waiting times are calculated. A more detailed report can be accessed via the following link: Diagnostic Tests and Investigations.

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 29 August 2023.

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 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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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: 24 May 2023
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