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 the patient was due to be treated. Information on the reasons for cancellations are also included.

It should be highlighted that these statistics are affected by the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak. In particular, on 17 March, NHSScotland was placed under emergency measures and Boards were asked to suspend all non-urgent elective treatment. This resulted in most patients being cancelled far in advance of their operation. As Scotland moved into Phase 2 of the ‘lockdown’, from the 19 June, Boards started to resume some services as part of the planned remobilisation of services (external website), which includes the rescheduling of cancelled patients.

Main points

  • The total number of planned operations across NHSScotland during July 2020 was 11,224, an increase of 60.7% from 6,984 in June 2020, but a decrease of 58.3% from 26,890 during July 2019.
  • In July 2020, 699 operations, or 6.2% of all planned operations, were cancelled the day before or on the day the patient was due to be treated. This compares to 465 (6.7%) in June and 2,345 (8.7%) in July 2019. At Health Board level this percentage ranged from 1.1% to 10.3%.
  • In July 2020, of all planned operations cancelled in this way:
    • 185 (1.6%) were cancelled by the patient
    • 345 (3.1%) were cancelled by the hospital based on clinical reasons
    • 143 (1.3%) were cancelled by the hospital due to capacity or non-clinical reasons
    • 26 (0.2%) were cancelled due to other reasons.



Image caption Percentage of total planned operations by reasons for cancellation, up to 31 July 2020
Chart showing the percentage of patients in NHS Scotland who had their Planned Operation Cancelled between May 2019 to July 2020, broken down by cancellation reason. Between May 2019 and February 2020 cancellation reasons were relatively stable: cancellations for clinical reasons and cancellations made by the patient both were consisitently around three percent. Cancellations due to non-clincal/capacity reasons were around two percent. In March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic started, cancellations rose, with cancellations due to non-clinical/capacity resons peaking at six percent in March and reducing down to pre-pandemic levels from May 2020, onward.


These statistics are released monthly. Data for this publication are submitted from NHS Board theatre systems.

The following definitions are used for the cancellation reason groupings:

  • Cancellation based on clinical reason by hospital includes patient unwell, patient not prepared for procedure correctly by hospital and patient did not follow pre op instruction
  • Cancellation based on capacity or non-clinical reason by hospital includes no beds available, staff not available, equipment not available and theatre session overran
  • Cancellation by patient includes patient decides not to go ahead with procedure, patient unable to attend, patient did not attend and patient did not attend pre-op
  • Other includes fire alarm prevents operation from taking place, weather prevented patient / staff travelling and patient transport did not arrive in time to bring patient to hospital.

Further information

Data from this publication is available to download from the data files section at the top of this page. Open data is available from the Scottish Health and Social Care Open Data platform (external website).

For more information on cancelled planned operations see the cancelled planned operations section. For related topics, please see the waiting times pages on the Data and Intelligence website (external website).

The next release of this publication will be October 2020.

NHS Performs

A selection of information from this publication is included in NHS Performs (external website). 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 email 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
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