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 December 2020:

  • there were 66,535 referrals for a first outpatient appointment at an AHP-led MSK service, 36.8% fewer referrals than were received during the same quarter in the previous year. This excludes self-referrals to the MATS which was suspended in March 2020 and has not resumed. Some Boards reported an increase in the proportion of referrals from primary care as a result of the MATS helpline suspension.
  • there were 52,537 patients seen at a first outpatient appointment, 37.2% fewer than were seen during the same quarter in the previous year (excluding MATS). Telephone and ‘Near Me’ appointments continued to be used widely during the quarter.
  • the percentage of patients seen within the target of four weeks of referral for a first outpatient appointment was 60.7%, compared to 43.7% during the same quarter in the previous year.
Image caption Number of patients seen and length of wait during quarters ending December 2019 and 2020
Number of patients seen and length of wait during quarters ending December 2019 and 2020  Two bar charts are presented.  The chart on the left shows the number of patients seen by 4-week time bands during quarter October - December 2019 and quarter October - December 2020.   The chart on the right shows the percentage of patients seen within 4-week time bands during quarter October - December 2019 and quarter October - December 2020.  The time band distributions for both charts are 0-4 weeks, 5-8 weeks, 9-12 weeks, 13-16 weeks and 16 weeks and over.
  • At 31 December 2020, 34,324 patients were waiting for a first outpatient appointment, in comparison to 67,300 patients who were waiting at 31 December 2019. Fewer referrals than removals (including those removed following attendance) from the waiting list during this period has resulted in 49.0% fewer patients waiting compared to a year ago.

Background

The statistics presented in this release are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, which changed referral and treatment patterns within these services. A number of Boards have also been unable to submit all the required data during the period.

As reported in the previous publication, a significant data quality issue arose in records submitted by six Boards (NHS Borders, Grampian, Greater Glasgow & Clyde, Lanarkshire, Orkney and Shetland) due to a problem occurring in a software update to their local Patient Management System, TrakCare. Work is ongoing to correct the issue and national warehouse data was available for five of the Boards for some or all of the quarter ending December 2020. This release therefore includes a combination of previously published data, locally sourced aggregate data and national warehouse data for these boards. NHS Grampian and NHS Orkney were unable to submit data for the period January – September 2020.

NHS Western Isles Occupational Therapy data has been excluded, as they are using a new patient management system (Morse) which does not currently support reporting of waiting times.

With multiple sources of data supporting this release, particular care should be taken when making any comparisons across time periods. Information on data submitted for each Board and profession is available for all time periods and is footnoted in the data tables.

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

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).

The next release of this publication will be 15 June 2021.

General enquiries

If you have an enquiry relating to this publication, please email 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: 14 July 2021
Was this page helpful?