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 2020.

The COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak has had a significant impact on elective treatment and this is reflected in the statistics shown. Early on in the outbreak many services for non-urgent care were paused or reduced and there were also less referrals to services. As Scotland moved into Phase 2 of ‘lockdown’ from 19 June, Boards started to resume services as part of the planned remobilisation of services (external website). Since then, demand has gradually increased and national and local initiatives have been put in place to increase capacity where possible, to address any backlog of patients waiting for elective care.

Please note, all Boards have endured significant pressure on local information and intelligence teams as the response to the pandemic evolves. As a result, the data submitted for recent months may not have been subject to the usual levels of quality assurance. In addition, NHS Grampian have been unable to submit data from March 2020 onwards, while NHS Borders and NHS Lothian have been unable to provide data for the latest quarter. Please therefore interpret the latest statistics with caution.

Main points

  • The number of eligible patients reported as seen in recent months remains significantly lower than pre COVID-19 levels. As shown in the chart below however, the number seen (excluding NHS Borders, Grampian and Lothian) has gradually increased from the reported low of 22,252 in April to 52,624 in September, reflecting the impact of the resumption of services. The comparable figure for September 2019 is 79,942.
  • At the onset of the pandemic, there was a slight decrease in the proportion of eligible patient journey waits that could be fully measured by NHS Boards, dropping from 89.5% in February 2020 (all Boards) to 84.6% in April (excluding NHS Borders, Grampian and Lothian). This level has been sustained since, with 84.2% of the 52,624 journeys in September reported as fully measurable against the 18 week RTT standard.
  • Of the fully measurable patient journeys (excluding NHS Borders, Grampian and Lothian) which were completed in September 2020, 66.9% of patients were reported as being treated within 18 weeks of referral, down from 77.3% in June 2020 and 78.6% in September 2019. The figures for July and August 2020 were 69.8% and 65.7% respectively. This recent pattern reflects an overall downward trend in performance as an increasing number of non-urgent patients who had their wait paused during lockdown are now being treated each month.
Image caption Total number of eligible journeys (patients seen) and percentage of measurable waits completed within 18 weeks, NHSScotland, November 2011 to September 2020
This is double axis chart, which shows the number of completed patient journeys eligible under the 18 weeks RTT standard (patients seen) each month as the area chart, along with the proportion of fully measurable journeys completed within 18 weeks of referral, between November 2011 and September 2020. The proportion of fully measurable journeys within 18 weeks is plotted as a line chart.  The number of eligible patients reported as seen in recent months remains significantly lower than pre COVID-19 levels. However, the number seen has gradually increased from the reported low of 22,252 (excluding NHS Borders, Grampian and Lothian) in April to 52,624 in September, reflecting the impact of the resumption of services. The comparable figure for September 2019 is 79,942.  Of the fully measurable patient journeys which were completed in September 2020, 66.9% (excluding NHS Borders, Grampian and Lothian) of patients were reported as being treated within 18 weeks of referral, down from 77.3% in June 2020 and 78.6% in September 2019. The figures for July and August 2020 were 69.8% and 65.7% respectively. This recent pattern reflects an overall downward trend in performance as an increasing number of non-urgent patients who had their wait paused during lockdown are now being treated each month.
  1. This is double axis chart, which shows the number of completed patient journeys eligible under the 18 weeks RTT standard (patients seen) each month as the area chart, along with the proportion of fully measurable journeys completed within 18 weeks of referral, between November 2011 and September 2020. The proportion of fully measurable journeys within 18 weeks is plotted as a line chart.
  2. The number of eligible patients reported as seen in recent months remains significantly lower than pre COVID-19 levels. However, the number seen has gradually increased from the reported low of 22,252 (excluding NHS Borders, Grampian and Lothian) in April to 52,624 in September, reflecting the impact of the resumption of services. The comparable figure for September 2019 is 79,942.
  3. Of the fully measurable patient journeys which were completed in September 2020, 66.9% (excluding NHS Borders, Grampian and Lothian) of patients were reported as being treated within 18 weeks of referral, down from 77.3% in June 2020 and 78.6% in September 2019. The figures for July and August 2020 were 69.8% and 65.7% respectively. This recent pattern reflects an overall downward trend in performance as an increasing number of non-urgent patients who had their wait paused during lockdown are now being treated each month.

Background

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 Week RTT performance is based on adjusted waits for consultant led treatments and fully measurable completed patient journeys. PHS produces separate publications for Diagnostic tests, New Outpatient appointments, Inpatient and Day Case treatment, available on the the waiting times page of the Data and Intelligence website (external website).

Further Information

In absence of a detailed report this quarter, please refer to the Data and Intelligence website for background information (external website) on the 18 weeks RTT standard, alongside information on data collection processes and quality assurance. In addition, NHS Board trend and comparative detail is available to explore in the data tables.

The next release of this publication will be 23 February 2020.

NHS Performs

Information from this publication is included in NHS Performs (external website), 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.

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: 15 July 2021
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