About this release

This release by Public Health Scotland (PHS) provides new figures on Primary Care Out of Hours (PC OOH) service activity up to the 1st of April 2024. Trend data includes COVID-19 Hub/ Assessment centre activity from March 2020 to March 2022, as this was managed by the PC OOHs services in the out of hours period. Unplanned Accident and Emergency (A&E) attendances during the out of hours period are also presented up to March 2024. PC OOH data is missing for August - September 2022 due to a system outage. Please note due to a data issue PC OOH contacts for island boards have been wrongly assigned to NHS Highland from week ending 25 February 2024 - week ending 10 March. This issue is currently being investigated.

Revisions have been made to unplanned A&E attendances for December 2023/January 2024 and details can be found in the metadata section.

Main points

  • Over the Easter weekend in 2024 there were around 30,300 PC OOH consultations, the highest in ten years. In March 2024, there was a large increase of around 16,300 consultations at PC OOH services (20%), compared to March 2023. The number of unplanned A&E attendances in the out of hours periods has also increased compared to March 2023 (up by 18%). The A&E attendances reported is based on unplanned data only and excludes new planned attendances introduced as part of the Redesign of Urgent care in 2020 as well as other types of planned attendances.
Image caption Monthly Primary Care Out of Hours activity and Unplanned A&E attendances - Scotland (Out of Hours period), January 2017 to March 2024
  • More recent trend data on comparison of A&E attendances to PC OOH consultations looks markedly different to older historical patterns (January 2017 to February 2020). This may reflect changes to patient pathways introduced by the Redesign of Urgent Care in December 2020, although the impacts of this are not yet fully understood.
  • The ratio of consultations to cases rose during the COVID-19 pandemic which was driven by a higher use of telephone consultation. This fell after the COVID-19 community pathway was closed at the end of March 2022 and continued to fall from June 2022 when a more accurate method of identifying cases was introduced.
  • Pre pandemic, consistently nearly six out of ten consultations took place in a Primary Care Emergency Centre (PCEC), but this has shifted to phone consultations during and following the pandemic. For the month March 2024, at Scotland level, only 41% of consultations were in a PCEC, similar to proportion as those by phone advice (42%).
  • As in previous years, the very young (<5 years), the elderly (75+ years) and people living in the most deprived areas had the highest PC OOH contacts in the year ending March 2024.


From April 2014, data on activity at PC OOH services have been submitted by NHS Boards across Scotland and maintained by PHS in the national data warehouse. The OOH period for this publication includes evenings, weekends and Easter, Christmas and New Year public holidays. Between March 2020 and the end of March 2022 people calling NHS 24 with the main symptoms of COVID-19 were managed via a dedicated pathway. Patient consultations are recorded as an attendance at Primary Care Emergency Centres (PCEC), Home Visits and/or PC OOH advice. An OOH patient contact/case can have more than one consultation type (e.g. telephone advice followed by home visit). Further information on data on PC OOH service can be found on the metadata section of the web pages.

Further information

The date for the next release of this publication will be 4 June 2024 and monthly thereafter.

General enquiries

If you have an enquiry relating to this publication, please contact Kathy McGregor at phs.unscheduledcare@phs.scot.

Media enquiries

If you have a media enquiry relating to this publication, please contact the Communications and Engagement team.

Requesting other formats and reporting issues

If you require publications or documents in other formats, please email phs.otherformats@phs.scot.

To report any issues with a publication, please email phs.generalpublications@phs.scot.

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: 29 April 2024
Was this page helpful?