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 March 2021:

  • 105,630 patients were waiting to be seen for the eight key diagnostic tests, an increase of 4.7% (+4,717) from 31 December 2020 and 24.9% (+21,074) higher than 31 March 2020. When comparing to pre-pandemic levels, the waiting list size is 19.6% higher than 28 February 2020.
  • Of those waiting for one of the eight key tests, 61.4% had been waiting six weeks or less (42 days), compared to 55.9% at 31 December 2020 and 75.1% at 31 March 2020. However, there is notable variation across test types and Health Boards, ranging from 20.4% to 81.5% for an endoscopy and 40% to 99.3% for radiology tests.

Trend in the percentage of patients waiting 6 weeks or less at month end, split by test type, NHS Scotland, 31 March 2019 to 31 March 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 31 March 2021
  • 33,444 patients were waiting for an endoscopy test, an increase of 5.7% from 31 December 2020 and 43.4% higher than 31 March 2020. Of those waiting, 34.6% had been waiting six weeks or less, up from 32.2% 31 December 2020 but markedly down on the 60.0% reported at the same date last year.
  • The impact of the second wave of COVID-19 has led to a substantial increase in long waits for an endoscopy test. The percentage of patients waiting over 52 weeks increased from 3.9% at 31 December 2020 to 13.6% (4,549 patients, +3,313) at 31 March 2021.
  • There was a reduction in the percentage that had been waiting 26-39 weeks (747 patients, -473) and 39-52 weeks (178, -988) for a radiology test compared to 31 December 2020. The percentage waiting over 52 weeks increased slightly, from 0.4% to 0.6% (425, +152).

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 but a second wave of cases emerged in the autumn and as number of hospitalisations escalated during the winter months some Boards temporarily paused non-urgent diagnostic tests again.

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. A more detailed report can be accessed via the following link: Diagnostic Tests and Investigations.

The next release of this publication will be in August 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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