NHS waiting times - stage of treatment
A National Statistics publication for Scotland
Quarter ending 31 December 2020
- Waiting times
About this release
This release by Public Health Scotland relates to the length of time patients wait to be seen as a new outpatient or admitted for treatment as an inpatient or day case. The latest statistics represent all patients covered by the national standards for these stages of treatment.
As reported in the previous quarterly release, a significant data quality issue has arisen in new outpatient records submitted by six Boards. This is due to a problem in a software update to their local Patient Management System. While progress has been made and the system provider is endeavouring to resolve the matter fully, Boards have provided PHS with locally sourced aggregated data for the period affected to support the ongoing publication of new outpatient statistics. Due to multiple sources of data underpinning this release, particular care should be taken when observing trend information. Please see the full report for further detail.
New outpatients national standard - 95% of new outpatients waiting no longer than 12 weeks from referral to being seen
- During the quarter ending 31 December 2020, 243,355 patients were seen. This represents an increase of 26.3% (+50,608) from the quarter ending September 2020 as services continued to resume. While the number of patients being seen is on the rise, total activity for the latest quarter was 32.6% (-117,645) lower than the same period in 2019.
- Of those patients seen, 71.8% had waited 12 weeks (84 days) or less. This compares to 72% for the previous quarter and 76.2% for the quarter ending 31 December 2019.
- At 31 December 2020, 342,332 patients were waiting to be seen. This represents an increase of 5.7% from 30 September 2020 and is 21.5% higher than at 31 December 2019. Of those waiting at 31 December 2020, 47.8% had been waiting 12 weeks or less, a slight improvement from 46.5% at 30 September but markedly down on the 72.7% reported at the same date in 2019.
- As the waiting list size continues to increase, the percentage of patients experiencing longer waits is also increasing. At 31 December 2020, 22.3% (76,428) had been waiting over 39 weeks, up from 11% (35,494) at 30 September 2020, of which 7% (23,822) had been waiting 52 weeks or more.
Treatment Time Guarantee (TTG) – Following the decision to treat all eligible patients should wait no longer than 12 weeks for treatment as an inpatient or day case
- During the quarter ending 31 December 2020, 45,564 patients were admitted for treatment. This represents an increase of 19.9% (+7,562) from the quarter ending September 2020 as services continue to resume. While the number of patients being seen is on the rise, total activity for the latest quarter was 34.1% (-23,623) lower than the same quarter in 2019.
- Of those patients admitted, 61.4% had waited 12 weeks (84 days) or less. This compares to 55.6% for the previous quarter and 71.5% for quarter ending 31 December 2019.
- At 31 December 2020, 86,289 patients were waiting to be admitted, a slight increase of 0.5% from 30 September 2020 and 7.7% higher than at 31 December 2019. Of those waiting, 37% had been waiting 12 weeks or less, an improvement from 30.3% at 30 September 2020 but markedly down on the 67.4% reported at the same date in 2019.
- While the waiting list size has increased slightly, the percentage of patients experiencing longer waits is also increasing. At 31 December 2020, 39.9% (34,456) had been waiting over 39 weeks, up from 23% (19,746) at 30 September 2020, of which 17.6% (15,179) had been waiting 52 weeks or more.
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 (external website). Then, as a second wave of COVID-19 cases emerged through the autumn months, a strategic national framework (external website) 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.
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. Boards started to resume relevant services, from June 2020 but a second wave of cases emerged in the autumn and as the number of hospitalisations escalated during the winter months some Boards temporarily paused non-urgent elective care again.
Documents relating to waiting times, including the TTG are available via 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.
Open data from this publication are available from the Scottish Health and Social Care Open Data platform (external website).
The next release of this publication will be 31 August 2021.
A selection of information from this publication is included in NHS Performs (external website). NHS Performs is a website that brings together a range of information on how hospitals and NHS Boards within NHSScotland are performing.
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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.