About this release

This release 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 31 December 2020:

  • 100,913 patients were waiting to be seen for the eight key diagnostic tests. This represents a decrease of 1.8% (-1,803 patients) from 30 September 2020 but is 15.3% (+13,370) higher than at 31 December 2019. Of those waiting for a test, 55.9% had been waiting six weeks or less (42 days), compared to 53.3% at 30 September 2020 and 79.5% at 31 December 2019.
  • 31,637 patients were waiting for an endoscopy test, a decrease of 3.5% from 30 September 2020 but 44.5% higher than at 31 December 2019. Of those waiting, 32.2% had been waiting six weeks or less, an improvement from 28.6% at 30 September 2020 but markedly down on the 68.1% reported at the same date for the previous year.
Image caption Trend in the percentage of patients waiting 6 weeks or less at month end, split by test type, NHS Scotland, 31 December 2018 to 31 December 2020
Trend in the percentage of patients waiting six weeks or less at month end, split by test type, NHS Scotland, 31 December 2018 to 31 December 2020  The chart provides a trend in the percentage of patients waiting within 6 weeks for the 8 key diagnostic tests, all endoscopy tests and all radiology tests. It shows that there was a sharp drop in the percentage of patients waiting six weeks or less at the end of April. Since then, performance has gradually improved, although it has not reached pre-covid levels.
  • PHS now captures more detail on the longer waits that patients have experienced recently. The percentage who had been waiting 39-52 weeks for an endoscopy test increased from 6.1% to 18.5% (5,866 patients, +3,863) whilst the percentage waiting over 52 weeks increased from 2.0% to 3.9% (1,236, +581) at 31 December 2020.
  • 69,276 patients were waiting for a radiology test, a slight decrease of 1.0% from September 2020 but 5.5% higher than at 31 December 2019. Of those waiting, 66.7% had been waiting six weeks or less, an improvement from 9% at 30 September 2020 but down on the 83.4% reported at the same date for the previous year.
  • Focusing on patients experiencing the longest waits for a radiology test, the percentage who had been waiting within 26-39 weeks decreased from 6.4% to 1.8% (1,220 patients, -3,251). There was a marginal increase in the percentage waiting 39-52 weeks (1,166, 1.7%) and over 52 weeks (273, 0.4%).

Background

These statistics continue to be affected by the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic. During the early stage of the outbreak many services were paused or reduced and there were also less referrals to services. From the 19 June, Boards started to resume some services as part of the planned remobilisation of services. Then, as a second wave of COVID-19 cases emerged through the autumn months, a strategic national framework was introduced by the Scottish Government on 2 November with the aim of supressing the virus to the lowest possible level whilst tackling the ‘harms’ caused by the pandemic. This included maximising the safe and effective resumption of planned services where possible, whilst balancing the need to ensure sufficient capacity to respond to the resurgence of COVID-19.

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 our website. PHS have developed an animation, with further explanations of how waiting times are calculated.

The next release of this publication will be in May 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: 15 July 2021
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