What are out of hours services?

This section reports statistics on primary care out of hours (PC OOH) services across Scotland. 

We also provide information about other urgent and unscheduled care services and pathways.

NHS boards provide PC OOH services for patients in the out-of-hours time period.

This covers:

  • 6pm to 8 am, Monday to Friday
  • all day Saturday and Sunday
  • national and local public holidays

How are they accessed?

PC OOH services are mainly accessed following a telephone assessment and referral from NHS 24.

There are differences in how NHS boards manage their PC OOH services as well as other variations in service delivery which can potentially impact on comparability.

Between March 2020 and the end of March 2022 people calling NHS 24 with the main symptoms of COVID-19 were managed using a dedicated COVID-19 triage line and transferred to NHS boards for further assessment and management if required.

The data in these pages also include information on contacts with COVID Hub and Assessment centres, as they were dealt with at NHS boards level by OOH primary care hours services.

The type of PC OOH services that are provided include a:

  • face-to-face appointment at a Primary Care Emergency Centre (PCEC/PCC)
  • home visit
  • telephone advice call with a doctor or nurse

We also show unplanned A&E attendances during the out-of-hours period alongside PC OOH activity.  

You can view further information about the PC OOH data we report in the metadata section.

Latest publication

The latest publication on PC OOH services was published in November 2023.  

The publication provides trend analysis at Scotland level and by NHS boards. It also provides a breakdown by the type of PC OOH services provided as well as demographic information on age and deprivation.

In a typical year, one in six of the Scottish population (around 850,000 people) contact OOH primary care services each year. This results in just under a million consultations.

Read the latest primary cares out of hours publication.


This section provides more detailed information about the primary care out of hours data and the statistics we are reporting, to help with accurate interpretation. It also confirms how we handle and report these statistics to comply with the UK Statistics Authority Code of Practice.

National statistics release

Publication title

Primary Care Out of Hours Services in Scotland


These pages report statistics on patient contacts at OOH Primary Care Services and COVID Hub/Assessment centres across Scotland during 1 April 2014 to 31 August 2023.  

The information presented includes:

  • numbers of contacts at PC OOH
  • consultation type
  • age band
  • deprivation quintile
  • sex

Day of week and time of day is also included along with comparative A&E activity data.

Information is presented for Scotland and each NHS Board.


Health and social care


Urgent and emergency care


Excel tables.


Monthly activity data (to be confirmed) and annual demographic updates.

Timeframe of data and timeliness

Monthly (to be confirmed).

Activity data is on the first Tuesday of the month, covering the month two months prior to publication (for example, March publication contains the data for January).

Official Statistics designation

The monthly and annual data release is designated as official statistics.

Relevance and key uses of the statistics

The following uses of the data have been identified:

Other uses of the data include information requests, freedom of information requests, information support to boards and parliamentary questions.

Coherence and clarity

Statistics are presented in summaries that highlight the main headline points from the latest releases.

In order to help users understand and interpret our statistics, further information is contained within this metadata section.

We have also provided a glossary and tried to minimise use of abbreviations and acronyms.

Date of first publication

The first data release was published in August 2015.

Trend data available from 1 April 2014.

Pre-release access

Under terms of the “Pre-Release Access to Official Statistics (Scotland) Order 2008”, PHS is obliged to publish information on those receiving pre-release access ('pre-release access' refers to statistics in their final form prior to publication).

The standard maximum pre-release access is five working days. Shown below are details of those receiving standard pre-release access.

Standard pre-release access

  • Scottish Government Health and Social Care Directorate
  • Territorial NHS Board Chief Executives
  • Territorial NHS Board Communication leads

It is the policy of PHS to make its websites and products accessible according to our accessibility statement. Graphs and tables have been assessed against PHS accessibility standards.

Data collection

Data source(s)

The PC OOH data is submitted to PHS by and external supplier, ADVANCED, on behalf of NHS boards.

The local system used in each NHS board is ADASTRA. Data is submitted daily for all NHS boards.

All the data is episode-level data.

The A&E data is taken from the A&E datamart and episode-level data only. It excludes approximately 3% of aggregate returns. It includes only unplanned data and excludes Planned codes: New Planned, Recall and Return.

Date that data are acquired

Activity data is on the first Tuesday of the month, covering the month two months prior to publication (for example, March publication for data in January).

Concepts and definitions

Further information is availabel on:

  • data items
  • codes and definitions

Data quality


For April 2014 to March 2015 data national submissions were made through GP OOH Interim data files, with only very limited validation to ensure correct coding had been used. 

Since the introduction of the GP OOH Datamart in April 2015, the data now undergoes full validation which ensures that the data is in the correct format and only contains accepted codes

Refer to OOH dataset document which provides a list of accepted format.

If the submission file does not meet all of the validation rules, then the whole file is rejected. 

The resulting errors are reported back to AHC where they must be amended and the file resubmitted. 

Once the file passes validation it is loaded into the datamart where it is then available for analysis and reporting. 

PHS works closely with colleagues in the NHS boards to improve the validation and accuracy of the data and to ensure that the appropriate data standards are understood and applied by all health boards.


Ongoing monitoring of the quality of data covers the completeness, timeliness and accuracy of data recorded.

PHS are not responsible for training issues affecting completion and understanding of ADASTRA.

PHS do however monitor data quality, contacting health boards as required.

During the period March 2020 to March 2022, three NHS boards did not submit COVID Assessment Activity:

  • NHS Forth Valley
  • NHS Grampian
  • NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde (from September 2021 onwards only)

The published statistics for the other parts of the UK are not comparable. Further investigation to clarify differences is ongoing.


Public Health England have a GP OOH Surveillance System which provides national weekly data on GP OOH contacts with specific conditions (started in August 2014).

Northern Ireland

Not published


Do not publish information on GP Out of Hours services in Wales directly. Prior to July 2011 some information was collected on GP Out of Hours services by NHS Direct Wales.

However after this date NHS Direct Wales was no longer responsible for any GP out-of-hours services in Wales and callers were directed to their local health board. Therefore some current data may be available direct from HBs.

Continuity of data

Trend data showing number of consultations is robust at a national level.

Standardisation work was introduced in June 2022 to help better identify how 'cases' are measured and this will impact on trend analysis of cases for some NHS boards.


Revisions statement

These amendments are usually minor, affecting a small number of records for individual sites or areas.

Any major or significant changes are handled as formal revisions as outlined in PHS Statistical Revisions Policy.

If NHS boards discover that data submitted for publication is incorrect, or that data are missing, further re-submissions can be made up until the publication submission deadline date.

Any revised figures will be highlighted within notes on the affected tables.

Figures contained within each publication may also be subject to change in future releases as submissions may be updated to reflect a more accurate and complete set of data.

Revisions relevant to this publication

No revisions.


Value type and unit of measurement
  • Count of total PC OOH cases and consultations.
  • Count of unplanned A&E attendances.
  • Numbers for age groups, sex and SIMD categories for PC OOH services.

The PHS Statistical Disclosure Protocol is followed for monthly publication to protect patient confidentiality.



The patient administration system for the primary care out of hours service.

Accident and emergency (A&E) services

Collectively the term 'accident and emergency (A&E) services' includes the following site types:

  • emergency departments
  • minor injury units
  • community A&Es or community casualty departments that are GP or nurse-led

Advanced Health and Care.

The company responsible for development and maintenance of the Adastra system.


Advanced Health and Care.

The company responsible for development and maintenance of the Adastra system.


A case is used to identify a patient’s single encounter (service contact) with the OoH service.

Within a single case a patient may
have multiple consultations with OoH health care professionals.


A consultation is an interaction between the patient and a health care professional.

A case may have multiple consultations, for example, home visits, attendance at primary care emergency centre.

Emergency department

A larger A&E service that typically provides a 24-hour consultant-led service.

OOH period

Protected Learning Time (PLT) is an opportunity for practice staff to address their own learning and professional development needs.

Put simply, practices in a locality or within a community health partnership (CHP) close for an afternoon to allow for continuing professional development (CPD) learning activities.


General enquiries

If you have an enquiry relating to data on PC OOH services, please contact Kathy McGregor or Carolanne D’arcy 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.

Last updated: 19 December 2023
Was this page helpful?