About this release

This release by Information Services Division gives a quarterly update on how long patients wait for Musculoskeletal (MSK) services that are delivered by Allied Health Professionals (AHP) in Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Chiropody/Podiatry and Orthotics. The release also includes information on patients using the Musculoskeletal Advice and Triage Service (MATS) operated by NHS24. These data are considered developmental and progress continues to be made with all NHS Boards who are developing their IT systems in order to provide data for all indicators.

Main points

  • 45.4% of the 83,828 patients who had a first clinical outpatient appointment with an AHP MSK service were seen within four weeks of referral for quarter ending 31 December 2019, compared with the national target of 90%. This compares to 44.4% of patients seen within four weeks for the previous quarter and 46.4% of patients seen within four weeks for quarter ending 31 December 2018.
Image caption Percentage of patients seen within 4 Weeks for quarters December 2018 - December 2019
Percentage of Patients seen within 4 weeks for quarter ending December 2018 to quarter ending December 2019. This line chart shows the percentage of patients seen within 4 Weeks for quarters ending: December 2018, March 2019, June 2019, September 2019 and December 2019. The chart shows trends for the following specialties with percentages for respective quarters are presented in brackets after each specialty : All AHP MSK Specialties (46.4, 50.9, 48.2, 44.4, 45.4) Occupational Therapy (66.3, 63.1, 62.6, 66.9, 68.5)  Physiotherapy (42.0, 43.0, 43.7, 43.3, 43.5)  Chiropody Podiatry (54.2, 68.4, 54.1, 35.4, 42.4)  Orthotics (41.4, 47.9, 45.7, 44.7, 42.7) The chart also presents a line for the 90% standard.
  • There were 105,311 referrals to AHP MSK services in this quarter. This compares to 116,609 referrals during quarter ending 30 September 2019 and 109,450 referrals during quarter ending 31 December 2018.
  • At 31 December 2019, 31.3 % of the 68,158 patients waiting for a first clinical appointment with an AHP MSK service had been waiting four weeks or less. This compares to 37.9% at quarter ending 30 September 2019 and 34.6% at end 31 December 2018.


MSK problems include a diversity of complaints and diseases localised in joints, bones, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, tendon sheaths, bursa and muscles. The episodes covered by this publication also include patients seen pre or post orthopaedic surgery and those with peripheral nerve lesions (e.g. carpal tunnel, sciatica) or complication of fracture/dislocation/trauma.

The Scottish Government has determined that at least 90% of AHP MSK patients should wait no longer than four weeks from receipt of referral from a patient or health or social care professional. See NHSScotland Waiting Times Guidance (external website) for more information. The guidance target should be met by each profession individually within each NHS Board.

AHP MSK Occupational Therapy is provided within the overall Occupational Therapy Service in seven of the 14 NHS Boards and it is not possible to separately identify only the MSK cases.

To inform this release 12 Boards provided information through the national data collection, while two boards (NHS Fife and NHS Tayside) provided data through a combination of the national data collection system and local figures. Board and specialty composition varies across quarters prior to quarter end December 2018.

Further information

Find out more in the full report. The data from this publication is available to download from the data files section of this page and the NHSScotland Open Data platform (external website).

For related topics, please see the waiting times information on the Data and Intellience website (external website). ISD have developed a video (external website), with further explanations of how waiting times are calculated.

The next release of this publication will be 16 June 2020.

General enquiries

If you have an enquiry relating to this publication, please contact phs.ahpmsk@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: 07 October 2022
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