About this release

This quarterly release by Public Health Scotland relates to the number of patients waiting for one of eight key diagnostics tests and investigations and the time they have waited. The eight key tests and investigation are upper endoscopy, lower endoscopy (excl. colonoscopy), colonoscopy, cystoscopy, CT scan, MRI scan, barium studies and non-obstetric ultrasound.  

Main points

At 30 September 2021:

  • 125,557 patients were waiting to be seen for the eight key diagnostic tests, an increase of 8.9% (+10,304) from 30 June 2021 and 22.2% higher than at 30 September 2020. When comparing to pre-pandemic levels, the waiting list size is 42.0% higher than the 12-month average prior to the onset of the pandemic (Mar 19 – Feb 20).
  • Of those waiting for one of the eight key tests, 57.8% had been waiting six weeks or less (42 days), compared to 62.6% at 30 June 2021 and 53.3% at 30 September 2020. However, there is a notable difference across test types and Health Boards, ranging from 27.1% to 97.1% for an endoscopy and 46.9% to 99.5% for a radiology test.
Image caption Trend in the percentage of patients waiting 6 weeks or less at month end, split by test type, NHS Scotland, 31 March 2019 to 30 September 2021
Trend in the percentage of patients waiting 6 weeks or less at month end, split by test type, NHS Scotland, 31 March 2019 to 30 September 2021
  • 34,740 patients were waiting for an endoscopy, an increase of 0.7% from 30 June 2021, 6.0% from 30 September 2020 and 68.9% when compared to the 12-month average prior to the onset of the pandemic. Of those waiting, 33.9% had been waiting six weeks or less; lower than both the pre-pandemic average of 66.6% and 36.5% at 30 June 2021 but higher than 28.6% at 30 September 2020.
  • The percentage of patients who had been waiting over 52 weeks for an endoscopy increased slightly from 10.2% at 30 June 2021, to 11.2% (3,883 patients, +366) at 30 September 2021, which is markedly higher when compared to the 2% (655 patients) reported at the same date last year.
  • 90,817 patients were waiting for a radiology test, an increase of 12.5% from 30 June 2021, 29.8% from 30 September 2020 and 37.4% when compared to the 12-month average prior to the onset of the pandemic. Of those waiting, 66.9% had been waiting six weeks or less; lower than both the pre-pandemic average of 86.6% and 73.8% at 30 June 2021 but higher than 64.9% at 30 September 2020.
  • The percentage of patients who had been waiting over 13 weeks for a radiology test has increased from 5.5% at 30 June 2021 to 8.8% (7,967 patients, +3,544) at 30 September 2021. This compares to 16.1% (11,273) waiting over 13 weeks at the same date last year. On average, 1.8% of patients were waiting over 13 weeks in the 12 months prior to the pandemic.

Background

These statistics continue to be affected by the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic. Following the early stages of the outbreak when many services were paused or reduced and there were fewer referrals to services, Boards started to gradually resume services in the summer of 2020 as part of the planned remobilisation of services. However, as the pandemic has evolved with further waves of high infection rates and increased hospitalisations, there continues to be periods where some Boards have to temporarily pause or limit access to non-urgent diagnostic tests. This has been evident in the most recent quarter.

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

Further information

For more information see the Waiting Times section of the Data and Intelligence website. PHS have developed an animation (external website), with further explanations of how waiting times are calculated.

The next release of this publication will be in February 2022.

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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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: 26 November 2021
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