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.

R - This publication includes a revision of statistics to include previously unavailable data and correct small inaccuracies. NHS Grampian had been unable to provide a submission for the quarter ending 31 March 2020 due to resource pressures because of COVID-19. A retrospective submission has now been made. Pain clinic data for NHS Ayrshire & Arran for the quarters ending 31 March 2021 and 30 June 2021 and for NHS Grampian for the quarter ending 30 June 2020 has been revised. Pain psychology data for NHS Lothian for the period January 2018 – December 2018 has also been revised. Pain psychology data prior to 2018 has been excluded from this publication for NHS Lothian.

Main points

  • During the quarter ending 31 December 2021, 4,838 patients were referred to a chronic pain clinic. This is similar to the previous quarter when 4,957 were patients referred. Referral numbers have not exceeded the levels seen prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, when there were on average 5,200 referrals each quarter.
  • There were 2,020 patients seen at a chronic pain clinic during the quarter ending 31 December 2021, compared to 1,900 in the previous quarter, an increase of 6.3%. Of these, 1,397 (69.2%) waited 12 weeks or less, 476 (23.6%) waited between 13 and 24 weeks, 123 (6.1%) waited between 25 and 51 weeks and 24 (1.2%) waited 52 weeks or more.
Image caption Distribution of wait for patients seen at a Chronic Pain clinic during the quarters ending 30 September 2021 and 31 December 2021
  • At 31 December 2021, 2,977 patients were waiting for their first appointment at a chronic pain clinic. This compares to 2,867 patients at 30 September 2021, an increase of 3.8%.
  • During 2021, there has been an increase in the number of patients waiting, although the size of the waiting list has decreased compared to 2019, when on average 5,000 patients were waiting at the end of each quarter. The number of patients who have been seen is also lower than the quarterly average of 3,000 patients seen during 2019. The decrease in the number of patients seen and patients waiting compared to 2019 is because some NHS Boards have 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.
  • For the NHS Boards who submit data on pain psychology clinics, further detail is available in the data tables and the publication report.


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. Any adjustments are based on the NHSScotland Waiting Times Guidance (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.

Further information

The next release of this publication will be 14 June 2022.

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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