About this release

This release by Public Health Scotland (PHS) provides an update on statistics on patients attending Out of Hours (OOH) Primary Care services, which includes phone consultations. Patients attend these services when their registered GP Practices are closed and they need urgent care. Data are presented from 1 April 2014 up to 30 April 2021. Data on attendances during the out of hours period at Accident and Emergency (A&E) Departments are also presented. The data contained in this report excludes COVID-19 activity taking place in the COVID-19 Hubs/Assessment areas and Flow Navigation Centres.

Main points

  • Throughout 2020 case numbers were impacted through the pandemic and are now returning to pre-COVID levels. During April 21, there were around 52,000 OOH Primary Care cases, a 33% increase compared to April 20 when there were around 39,300 cases.
  • In a typical year one in six of the Scottish population (around 850,000 people) contact OOH Primary Care services each year, which results in just under a million consultations.
  • Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 nearly six out of ten consultations (58%) took place in a Primary Care Emergency Centre (PCEC). In the latest calendar year this has dropped to around 30% with Doctor/Nurse advice calls accounting for around 45% of all consultations.
  • In 2020, January was the busiest month at OOH Primary Care Services with around 72,000 cases and 79,000 consultations.
  • In a typical year, during the summer A&E services have more attendances in the out of hours period, than OOH Primary Care cases. This is possibly as a result of longer daylight hours and greater risk of injuries. During the winter months and months with public holidays there are more OOH Primary Care cases.


From April 2014, data on patient contacts at OOH Primary Care services have been collected across Scotland and maintained by PHS in the national data warehouse. Data are collected on a local IT system (Adastra), then extracted and submitted to the datamart on a daily basis.

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

It should be noted that in the areas where only aggregate A&E data is returned to PHS (typically the minor injury units in NHS Grampian and NHS Highland), there is likely to be an undercount of patients seen. This does not make a significant difference to the overall results. The time period being compared relates to when both services are open i.e. the out of hours time period. This includes evenings, weekends and Easter, Christmas and New Year public holidays.

Find out more

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: 14 July 2021
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