About this release

This 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 June 2021:

  • 115,253 patients were waiting to be seen for the eight key diagnostic tests, an increase of 9.1% (+9,600) from 31 March 2021 and 16.9% higher than at 30 June 2020. When comparing to pre-pandemic levels, the waiting list size is 30.3% 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, 62.6% had been waiting six weeks or less (42 days), compared to 61.4% at 31 March 2021 and 35.4% at 30 June 2020. However, there is a notable difference across test types and Health Boards, ranging from 22.8% to 97.9% for an endoscopy, and 23.1% to 96.3% 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 June 2021
This trend chart shows that prior to the pandemic the percentage of patients waiting within six weeks for an endoscopy and radiology test was relatively stable, up until the end of March 2020. Although performance has generally been on an upward trajectory since then for both test types, performance has not improved at the same rate for endoscopy tests, when compared to radiology tests.
  • 34,509 patients were waiting for an endoscopy test, up 3.2% from 31 March 2021 and 3% higher than 30 June 2020. Of those waiting, 36.5% had been waiting six weeks or less; lower than the pre-pandemic average of 66.7% but higher than 34.6% at 31 March 2021 and 22.8% at the same date last year.
  • The percentage of patients who had been waiting over 52 weeks for an endoscopy decreased from 13.6% at 31 March 2021 to 10.2% (3,517 patients, -1,032) at 30 June 2021. However, the percentage who had been waiting 39-52 weeks increased from 6.3% to 7.8% (2,699 patients, +591).
  • 80,744 patients were waiting for a radiology test, up 11.8% from 31 March 2021 and 6% higher than 30 June 2020. Of those waiting, 73.8% had been waiting six weeks or less; lower than the pre-pandemic average of 86.6% but equal to 31 March 2021 and higher than 44.9% at the same date last year.
  • The percentage of patients who had been waiting over 13 weeks for a radiology test decreased from 8.1% at 31 March 2021 to 5.5% (4,423 patients, -1,430) at 30 June 2021. This compares to 44.6% (30,611) waiting over 13 weeks at the same date last year.

Background

These statistics continue to be affected by the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic. At the start of the outbreak, many services relevant to the standard were paused or reduced and there were fewer referrals to these services. Boards started to resume relevant services, from June 2020. However, as a second wave of COVID-19 cases emerged through the Autumn and winter months, many Boards had to temporarily pause non-urgent diagnostic tests during the months of January and February 2021. Access to services has generally increased since then but some Boards may have been temporarily impacted by a return to high infection rates in recent months as lockdown restrictions eased.

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 November 2021.

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.

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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: 23 August 2021
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