About this release

This release by Public Health Scotland (PHS) provides an update on how long patients wait for a first outpatient appointment at Allied Health Professional (AHP) led Musculoskeletal (MSK) services. The Scottish Government has determined that at least 90% of patients should wait no longer than four weeks to be seen from receipt of referral.

Progress has been made to address some of the data quality issues that affected the previous release. Podiatry data for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde have been validated for publication and included in this release. While there are ongoing data quality issues with data submitted to the national warehouse for NHS Lothian, they have provided locally sourced aggregate data which means that some previously published statistics have changed. Further detail on this and other ongoing issues is available in the publication report.

Main points

  • During the quarter ending 31 March 2024, 76,064 patients were seen at a first AHP MSK outpatient appointment, an increase of 2.0% from a year ago during the quarter ending 31 March 2023 (74,560).
  • This increase reflects the general upward trend in the number of patients seen at AHP MSK services over the last 3 years. During 2021, the average number of patients seen each month was 19,137, rising to 22,563 in 2022 and 25,447 in 2023. During the quarter ending 31 March 2024, the average of 25,355 patients seen in each month was similar to that in 2023.
  • Of the 76,064 patients seen, 51.2% were seen within the target of four weeks of referral, similar to the average of 51.3% in 2022 and 52.4% in 2023. Of those patients who experienced longer waits, 9.6% waited more than 24 weeks compared to 5.8% during the quarter ending 31 March 2023.
  • There were 106,320 referrals to AHP MSK services during the quarter ending 31 March 2024, an increase of 2.7% compared to the quarter ending 31 March 2023 (103,540 referrals).
  • There has been a slight upward trend in the number of referrals in each of the last 3 years. During 2021, the monthly average was 28,458, rising to 31,812 in 2022 and 34,938 in 2023. During the quarter ending 31 March 2024, there was a further slight increase in the monthly average to 35,440.
  • At the end of the quarter on 31 March 2024, 78,505 patients were waiting to be seen, an increase of 11.1% compared to a year ago on 31 March 2023 (70,652 patients). Excluding NHS Lothian as data on length of wait is unavailable, of those waiting to be seen, 31% had been waiting 4 weeks or less, 53% had been waiting between 5 and 24 weeks and 16% had been waiting more than 24 weeks.
Image caption Waiting list changes - patients removed, seen, referred, and waiting by month October 2020 to March 2024


The AHP MSK data collection covers Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Chiropody/Podiatry and Orthotics services. It also covered the NHS24 Musculoskeletal Advice and Triage Service (MATS) service from May 2017 until March 2020. Data are sourced from the national waiting times warehouse with aggregate data submitted by NHS Boards as required. Data gaps and data from several sources should be taken into consideration when interpreting the statistics.

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.

Further information

The next release of this publication will be during summer 2025.

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: 11 June 2024
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