About this release

This release by Public Health Scotland reports on the length of time patients waited for a first appointment at chronic pain and pain psychology clinics. These clinics are part of a multi-disciplinary service for chronic pain assessment and management.

Main points

Chronic pain clinics

  • In the quarter ending 30 June 2021, 4,915 patients were referred to a chronic pain clinic. This is an increase of 26.5% compared to the quarter ending 31 March 2021 when 3,884 patients were referred. The number of referrals is now closer to the quarterly average of 5,200 during 2019, prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • In the quarter ending 30 June 2021, 2,087 patients were seen at a consultant-led chronic pain outpatient clinic. This compares to 2,344 patients in the quarter ending 31 March 2021, a decrease of 11.0%. The number of patients seen remains less than the quarterly average of 3,000 during 2019, prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Of the 2,087 patients seen during the quarter ending 30 June 2021, 1,510 (72.4%), waited 12 weeks or less to be seen, 215 (10.3%) more than 12 but less than 24 weeks, 250 patients (12.0%) more than 24 but less than 51 weeks and 112 patients (5.4%) 52 weeks or more.
Image caption Distribution of wait for patients seen at a chronic pain clinic during the quarters ending 31 March 2021 and 30 June 2021
  • At 30 June 2021, 2,589 patients were waiting to be seen, compared to 2,340 patients at 31 March 2021, an increase of 10.6%. The number of patients waiting is less than during 2019, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, when on average 5,000 patients were waiting at the end of each quarter. The reason for this reduction in the number of patients waiting is two-fold. Fewer referrals were received from the quarter ending 31 March 2020 to the quarter ending 31 March 2021 and during the quarter ending 31 December 2020, some NHS Boards introduced new pathways that offer patients alternatives to being seen at a consultant-led outpatient clinic. Patients are removed from waiting lists if they take up this offer.

Pain psychology clinics

  • In the quarter ending 30 June 2021, 482 patients were referred to a pain psychology clinic. This compares to 425 patients in the quarter ending 31 March 2021, an increase of 13.4%.
  • In the quarter ending 30 June 2021, 320 patients were seen at a pain psychology clinic. This compares to 408 patients in the quarter ending 31 March 2021, a decrease of 21.6%.
  • At 30 June 2021, 494 patients were waiting to be seen for their first appointment. This is the same level as 31 March 2021 when 493 were waiting to be seen.

Background

Chronic pain is pain that carries on for longer than 12 weeks despite medication or treatment. Further information can be found on NHS Inform (external website).

The data presented here have been adjusted for periods of patient unavailability.

The data presented in this release continue to be impacted by measures put in place to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. After being temporarily paused in March 2020, chronic pain services started to resume in June as part of the planned remobilisation of services (external website). In September, a Framework for Recovery of NHS Pain Management Services (external website) was published with further guidance on the resumption and continuation of services.

Further information

The next release of this publication will be 14 December 2021.

General enquiries

If you have an enquiry relating to this publication, please email phs.waitingtimes@phs.scot.

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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 September 2021
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