About this release

This release by Public Health Scotland (PHS) provides an update on Out of Hours (OOH) Primary Care (PC) service activity from 1 April 2014 to 10 January 2022. COVID-19 Hub and Assessment centre activity is included from March 2020 onwards. Accident and Emergency (A&E) attendances during the out of hours period are also presented.

Main points

Image caption Monthly consultations in OOH Primary Care/COVID hub and Assessment (Out of Hours period only) NHS Scotland, January 2017 to December 2021
  • There were around 66,000 OOH PC/COVID Hub or Assessment Centre consultations over the festive period (22 December 2021 - 4 January 2022); 21% higher than the previous year when tighter COVID-19 restrictions were in place. In addition to the usual busy festive period, activity in autumn 2021 was higher than is usual for this time of year.
  • The number of OOH PC/COVID Hub and Assessment Centre cases in 2021 was 13% less than OOH PC cases in 2019 (pre pandemic). Similarly, the number of A&E attendances in out of hours periods in 2021 was 18% less than in 2019.
  • However, between 2019 and 2021 there has been a 10% rise in the number of consultations. This increase in the average number of consultations per case in part reflects the reconfiguration of OOH PC for COVID-19 activity.
  • Pre pandemic, consistently nearly six out of ten consultations took place in a Primary Care Emergency Centre (PCEC), but this shifted to phone consultations during the pandemic. In 2021, only around 25% consultations were in a PCEC, while Doctor/Nurse and COVID hub/advice telephone calls accounted for around 55% of all consultations.
  • As in previous years, the very young (<5 years), the elderly (75+ years) and people living in the most deprived areas had the highest OOH contact rates during 2021. During the pandemic, the gap between the most and least deprived narrowed slightly, but this was because the number of cases decreased more for deprived areas than for less deprived.


From April 2014, data on patient contacts/cases at OOH Primary Care services have been collected across Scotland and maintained by PHS in the national data warehouse. The OOH period includes evenings, weekends and the Easter, Christmas and New Year public holidays.

During COVID-19 there has been a rapid reconfiguration of primary/community care services. As part of this, NHS 24’s 111 service reconfigured as an “in hours” (as well as “out of hours”) route for COVID-19 triage.  People calling with the main symptoms of COVID-19 are managed via this dedicated COVID-19 triage line and transferred to NHS Boards for further assessment and management if required. The data in this publication includes calls originating from the NHS 24 out of hours line and the new NHS 24 COVID-19 triage line in the out of hours period only, as both are dealt with at NHS Board level by OOH Primary Care hours services. 

Patient consultations are recorded as an attendance at Primary Care Emergency Centres (PCEC), Home Visits and/or Primary Care OOH advice. An OOH patient contact/case can have more than one consultation type (e.g. PC OOH advice followed by home visit).

Further information

The date for the next release of this publication is to be confirmed.

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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: 07 October 2022
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