About this release

This release by Public Health Scotland (PHS) contains an update on how long patients wait for a first outpatient appointment at Allied Health Professional (AHP) led Musculoskeletal (MSK) services. MSK conditions (external website) affect joints, bones, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, tendon sheaths, bursa and muscles. The data in this release covers Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Chiropody/Podiatry and Orthotics, and the Musculoskeletal Advice and Triage Service (MATS) (external website) operated by NHS24. The Scottish Government has determined that at least 90% of patients should wait no longer than four weeks to be seen by these services from receipt of referral.

Main points

During the quarter ending 30 September 2021:

  • 60,789 patients were seen at a first outpatient appointment at an AHP-led clinic for MSK conditions, an increase of 2.6% compared with the quarter ending 30 June 2021. This remains fewer than the 79,945 patients seen on average during the quarters in 2019, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although virtual appointments continued to be used widely, some NHS Boards reported a continuing trend towards an increased number of face to face appointments.
Image caption Patients seen and proportion within 4 weeks January 2019 – September 2021
  • 52.8% of patients were seen within the target of four weeks of referral. This is a decrease from 58.5% during the quarter ending 30 June 2021, but higher than 45.3% of patients in 2019.
  • 92,595 patients were referred to services across Scotland, a decrease of 1.0% compared with the previous quarter and still fewer than the average of 110,048 referrals received in quarters in 2019.
  • The number of new referrals exceeded the number of patients ending their wait, either because they were seen or were removed from waiting lists for other reasons, and so by the end of the quarter the number of patients waiting had increased by 18.7%. There were 64,691 patients waiting compared to 54,506 patients at 30 June 2021. However, this is 10.0% fewer than the 71,904 patients who were waiting on average at quarter ends during 2019.


The statistics presented in this release are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has changed referral and treatment patterns within these services.

References made to Scotland data exclude MATS data due to the continued suspension of the helpline since March 2020. Previously published aggregate data is included for NHS Borders as historical data remains impacted by a problem with a software update to their local Patient Management System last year. NHS Western Isles Occupational Therapy data has been excluded, as the Morse Patient Management System does not currently support national reporting. Data for NHS Fife Chiropody/Podiatry is excluded as technical issues prevent national warehouse submissions from the TIARA system. Aggregate data for NHS Shetland Orthotics is included as a technical issue affected records submitted to the national warehouse.

The waiting time used for this target is an adjusted waiting time, with adjustments made up to 4 weeks based on the NHSScotland Waiting Times Guidance (external website).

Further information

The next release of this publication will be 22 March 2022.

The PHS Waiting Times team has opened a consultation on the frequency of future releases of this publication. To submit your comments, please visit the survey online. The consultation will close on 1 February 2022.

General enquiries

If you have an enquiry relating to this publication, please email phs.ahpmsk@phs.scot.

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

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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: 21 March 2024
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