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 31 March 2021, 3,884 patients were referred to a chronic pain clinic. This is the same level as the quarter ending 31 December 2020 when 3,879 patients were referred. The number of referrals remains lower than in the year prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, when on average there were 5,200 referrals each quarter.
  • In the quarter ending 31 March 2021, 2,344 patients were seen at a chronic pain clinic. This compares to 2,108 patients in the quarter ending 31 December 2020, an increase of 11.2%. While the number of patients seen is increasing, it remains less than in the year prior to the COVID-19 pandemic when on average 3,000 patients were seen each quarter.
Distribution of wait for patients waiting for their first appointment at a Chronic Pain clinic at 31 December 2020 and 31 March 2021
  • At 31 March 2021, 2,340 patients were waiting to be seen for their first appointment. This compares to 3,334 patients at 31 December 2020, a reduction of 29.8%. The number of patients waiting is less than during the year prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, when on average 5,000 patients were waiting at the end of each quarter. The reduction is partly because of fewer referrals being received and partly because 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.
  • Of the 2,340 patients waiting at 31 March 2021, 1,661 (71.0%), had been waiting 12 weeks or less to be seen, 272 (11.7%) more than 12 but less than 24 weeks, 242 patients (10.3%) more than 24 but less than 51 weeks and 165 patients (7.1%) 52 weeks or more.

Pain psychology clinics

Ten of the eleven NHS Boards who provide pain psychology clinics submit either a full or a partial dataset for this publication, although it should be noted that the majority of data is from NHS Lothian. Information on data completeness is available in the Data Tables.

  • In the quarter ending 31 March 2021, 425 patients were referred to a pain psychology clinic. This compares to 412 patients in the quarter ending 31 December 2020, an increase of 3.2%.
  • In the quarter ending 31 March 2021, 408 patients were seen at a pain psychology clinic. This compares to 224 patients in the quarter ending 31 December 2020, an increase of 82.1%.
  • At 31 March 2021, 493 patients were waiting to be seen for their first appointment. This compares to 570 patients at 31 December 2020, a decrease of 13.5%.

Background

Chronic pain is pain that carries on for longer than 12 weeks despite medication or treatment. Further information can be found on the NHS inform website (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 September 2021.

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.

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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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