About this release

This release by Public Health Scotland reports on the length of time new 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.

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.

Boards have experienced significant pressure on local resource as the response to the COVID-19 pandemic evolves. As a result, NHS Fife have been unable to provide data for 2020. All Scotland figures quoted in the main points below therefore exclude NHS Fife.

Main points

Chronic pain clinics

  • In the quarter ending 30 September 2020, 2,943 new patients were referred to a chronic pain clinic. This compares to 4,698 in the same quarter in 2019, a reduction of 37.4%. However, referrals have almost doubled from the quarter ending 30 June 2020 (1,501) as services resume.
  • In the quarter ending 30 September 2020, 1,283 patients were seen at a chronic pain clinic. This compares to 2,523 in the same quarter in 2019, a reduction of 49.1%, reflecting the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of patients seen increased from 547 during the quarter ending 30 June 2020.
  • At 30 September 2020, 4,245 patients were waiting to be seen for their first appointment, compared to 5,087 at 30 September 2019, a reduction of 16.6%. Although the number waiting is less than a year ago, there has been an increase from 4,030 (5.3%) waiting at 30 June 2020.
  • Board data submissions show that each quarter patients are removed from waiting lists for reasons other than being seen. This combined with fewer referrals being received, has contributed to a fall in the number of patients waiting to be seen when compared with a year ago. The main reasons why patients are removed from a waiting list are that they are referred back to GP because they did not attend an appointment, because the referral was inappropriate, or as a result of clinical triage and advice.
  • Of the 4,245 patients waiting at 30 September 2020, 56.6% (2,402) had been waiting more than 18 weeks. This compares to 20.8% at end of September 2019 and 52.9% at end of June 2020.

Pain psychology clinics

Ten NHS boards(external website) provide pain psychology clinics, 7 of which provide either a full or partial dataset for this publication. NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde provided data for patients seen and patients waiting during quarter September 2020 for the first time. However, the data is excluded from the main points below to allow comparison between time periods.

  • In the quarter ending 30 September 2020, 252 new patients were referred to a pain psychology clinic. This compares to 459 in the same quarter in 2019, a decrease of 45.1%. The number of referrals in this quarter was similar to that in the quarter ending 30 June 2020 (239).
  • In the quarter ending 30 September 2020, 186 patients were seen at a pain psychology clinic. This compares to 277 patients seen in the quarter ending September 2019, a decrease of 32.9%. Almost all of these patients were seen in NHS Lothian.
  • At 30 September 2020, 239 patients were waiting to be seen for their first appointment. This compares to 475 at 30 September 2019, a reduction of 49.7%. Although the number waiting is less than a year ago, there has been an increase from 178 (34.3%) patients waiting at the end of June 2020.

Background

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

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

Further information

The next release of this publication will be 9 March 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: 28 June 2021
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