About this release

This release by Public Health Scotland reports on completed patient pathways covered by the 18 weeks Referral to Treatment (RTT) standard (90% of patients being treated within 18 weeks of referral) up to 30 September 2021.

All Boards have encountered significant pressure on local information and intelligence resources due to the additional demands arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, data submitted since the onset of the pandemic may not have been subjected to the usual levels of quality assurance. In addition, NHS Grampian have been unable to submit data since February 2020 and NHS Tayside have been unable to submit data since May 2021. This should be taken into consideration when interpreting the statistics shown.

Main points

  • Across NHSScotland (excluding NHS Grampian and NHS Tayside), 210,240 patients were treated under this standard during the course of the latest quarter, a decrease of 3,616 (1.7%) compared to the previous quarter. Within the latest quarter there were 66,750 patients treated in July, 72,365 in August before dropping slightly to 71,125 in September. The September figure compares to a pre-pandemic (Mar 19 – Feb 20) monthly average of 89,803 patients treated, down 20.8%.
Image caption Total number of eligible journeys (patients seen) and percentage of measurable waits completed within 18 weeks, NHSScotland, March 2019 to September 2021
Total number of eligible journeys (patients seen) and percentage of measurable waits completed within 18 weeks, NHSScotland, March 2019 to September 2021
  • The quarterly decrease in the number of patients seen nationally was reflected across the majority of Boards, however four Boards experienced an increase in activity. These were NHS Forth Valley (4.4%), NHS Orkney (3.1%), NHS Borders (0.9%) and NHS Fife (0.7%).
  • 83.3% of the patient journeys (excluding NHS Grampian and NHS Tayside) completed during this quarter were fully measurable against the 18-week standard. Of these, 75.1% of patients were reported as being treated within 18 weeks of referral; this is 0.4% higher than in the previous quarter but lower than the performance level just prior to the pandemic (79.5%).


These statistics continue to be affected by COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic. Following the early stages of the outbreak when many services were paused or reduced and there were fewer referrals to services, Boards started to gradually resume services in the summer of 2020 as part of the planned remobilisation of services. However, as the pandemic has evolved with further waves of high infection rates and increased hospitalisations, there continues to be periods where some Boards have to temporarily pause or limit access to non-urgent diagnostic tests. This has been evident in the most recent quarter.

The 18 Weeks RTT standard applies to the entire patient journey from the initial referral to the start of treatment. Achieving the standard depends on waiting times for diagnostic tests, new outpatient appointments, inpatient and day case treatment. 18 Weeks RTT performance is based on adjusted waits for consultant led treatments and fully measurable completed patient journeys.

Further information

Information on the 18 weeks RTT standard and the data collected can be found on the waiting times section of our website. Open data from this publication are available from the Scottish Health and Social Care Open Data platform

The next release of this publication will be 22 February 2022.

NHS Performs

A selection of information from this publication is included in NHS Performs, a website that brings together a range of information on how hospitals and NHS Boards within NHSScotland are performing.

General enquiries

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

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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: 21 March 2024
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