About this release

This release by Public Health Scotland (PHS) provides a monthly update on the number of operations in NHSScotland that were cancelled the day before or on the day of treatment. Following a review of data processes, an error has been identified at NHS Orkney which means historic statistics for this Board prior to July 2023 are likely to be undercounting the true number of cancellations. PHS are collaborating with NHS Orkney to resolve this issue.

Main points

  • During December 2023, there were 20,837 operations planned to take place across NHSScotland. This is 2% higher than the number planned a year previously in December 2022 (20,429).
  • The number of planned operations has been steadily increasing since pandemic restrictions first affected provision of services in March 2020. In the 12 months to December 2023, there was a 10.3% increase in the number of planned operations compared to the previous 12 months. This compares to a 17.4% year-on-year increase when comparing year ending December 2022 to year ending December 2021. However, activity remains lower than pre-pandemic levels. When comparing to December 2019 (25,791), there were 19.2% fewer operations planned during the latest month.
  • During the latest month, 9.7% (2,014) of planned operations were cancelled the day before or on the day the patient was due to be treated in NHSScotland. This is a lower rate than both the 11.6% (2,369) reported during December 2022 and that reported in December 2019 (10.1%, 2,617). Across NHS Boards, the percentage of cancelled planned operations ranged from 3.9% to 16.2%.
  • Of all planned operations during December 2023 in NHSScotland, 725 (3.5%) were cancelled by the hospital based on clinical reasons, 677 (3.2%) were cancelled by the patient, 515 (2.5%) were cancelled by the hospital due to capacity or non-clinical reasons, and 97 (0.5%) were cancelled due to other reasons.
Image caption Total planned operations and percentage of cancelled planned operations, by reason, up to December 2023


These statistics are released monthly. Data for this publication are submitted from NHS board theatre systems. Further information on the reasons for cancellation can be found on the Cancelled Planned Operations section of our website.

Further information

The next release of this publication will be 5 March 2024.

NHS Performs

A selection of information from this publication is included in NHS Performs. NHS Performs is a website that brings together a range of information on how hospitals and NHS Boards within NHSScotland are performing.

General enquiries

If you have an enquiry relating to this publication, please contact Rob Gibbs at phs.waitingtimes@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: 21 March 2024
Was this page helpful?