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

  • During the quarter ending 30 September 2021, 4,957 patients were referred. This is very similar to the quarter ending 30 June 2021 when 4,915 patients were referred. Referral numbers are now close to levels seen in 2019 prior to the COVID-19 pandemic when there were on average 5,200 referrals each quarter.
  • In the quarter ending 30 September 2021, 1,900 patients were seen at a chronic pain clinic. This compares to 2,087 patients in the quarter ending 30 June 2021, a decrease of 9.0%. The number of patients seen remains less than the quarterly average of 3,000 patients seen during 2019, prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Of the 1,900 patients seen during the quarter ending 30 September 2021, 1,368 (72.0%) had waited 12 weeks or less to be seen, 396 (20.8%) had waited between 13 and 24 weeks, 117 patients (6.2%) had waited between 25 and 51 weeks and 19 patients (1.0%) had waited 52 weeks or more.
Image caption Distribution of wait for patients seen at a Chronic Pain clinic during the quarters ending 30 June 2021 and 30 September 2021
  • At 30 September 2021, 2,867 patients were waiting to be seen for their first appointment. This compares to 2,589 patients at 30 June 2021, an increase of 10.7%. 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.

Pain psychology clinics

  • The number of referrals increased by 13.5% when compared to the previous quarter for the 8 Boards who submitted this data.
  • The number of patients seen decreased by 15.6% when compared to the quarter ending 30 June 2021 for the 7 Boards who submitted this data.
  • The number of patients waiting to be seen for their first appointment increased by 33.3% when compared to the quarter ending 30 June 2021 for the 7 Boards who submitted this data.

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 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.

10 NHS boards submit pain psychology data for this publication; 7 submit a full dataset and 3 a partial dataset. This publication includes a revision of this data from the quarters ending 31 March 2019 to 30 September 2021 due to data resubmission from NHS Lothian. Data prior to 2019 has been excluded from this publication for NHS Lothian until further resubmissions are made.

Further information

The next release of this publication will be 8 March 2022.

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: 13 June 2022
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