About this release

This quarterly release by Public Health Scotland relates to the number of patients waiting for one of eight key diagnostics tests and investigations and the time they have waited. The eight key tests and investigations are upper endoscopy, lower endoscopy (excl. colonoscopy), colonoscopy, cystoscopy, CT scan, MRI scan, barium studies and non-obstetric ultrasound. 

Main points

At 31 March 2022:

  • 155,405 patients were waiting to be seen for the eight key diagnostic tests, an increase of 10% (+14,143) from 31 December 2021 and 75.8% from the average in the 12 months prior to the pandemic (March 19 - Feb 20). Of those waiting, 49.6% had been waiting six weeks or less (42 days), equal to the percentage reported at 31 December 2021.
  • 35,241 patients were waiting for an endoscopy, an increase of 3% from 31 December 2021 and 57.7% from the pre-pandemic average. Of those waiting, 36.4% had been waiting six weeks or less; representing an increase from 33.4% at 31 December 2021 but markedly down on the 66.6% 12-month average prior to the onset of the pandemic.
  • The percentage of patients waiting over 52 weeks for an endoscopy increased from 13% at 31 December 2021, to 15.2% (5,347 patients, +911).
  • 120,164 patients were waiting for a radiology test, an increase of 12.3% from 31 December 2021 and 81.9% from the average in the 12 months prior to the pandemic. Of those waiting, 53.5% had been waiting six weeks or less; lower than the pre-pandemic average of 86.6% and 54.7% at 31 December 2021.
  • The percentage of patients waiting over 13 weeks for a radiology test has increased from 15.8% at 31 December 2021 to 21.9% (26,368 patients, +9,407). On average, only 1.8% of patients were waiting over 13 weeks in the 12 months prior to the pandemic.
Image caption Trend in the number of patients waiting and percentage of patients waiting six weeks or less at month-end, split by test type, NHSScotland, 31 March 2019 to 31 March 2022
This dual axis trend chart shows the number of patients waiting for radiology and endoscopy, separately, and percentage of patients waiting six weeks or less for each of these as well as the 8 key tests combined, between 31 March 2019 and 31 March 2022. The chart shows that prior to the pandemic the number of patients waiting and the percentage of patients waiting six weeks or less for an endoscopy or radiology test was relatively stable. Since then, the number of patients waiting has generally increased, initially across both endoscopy and radiology, but more recently driven by accelerating growth in the radiology waiting list. Following the resumption of services in summer 2020, the percentage of patients waiting six weeks or less steadily improved. Then as the second wave of COVID-19 emerged over the winter and capacity for non-urgent care was reduced across many parts of the country, improvement in the performance measure slowed down and dipped, most noticeably, in January 2021. Since then, performance against the six-week standard was on an upward trend, reaching 64.1% at 31 May 2021, the highest rate observed since the start of the pandemic. The rate has since decreased again to 49.6% at 31 March 2022, as the total number waiting has grown.  It remains markedly down on the pre-pandemic average of 81.5% (March 2019 – February 2020).

Background

The services involved continue to be affected by COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic. In the early stages of the outbreak most non-urgent treatment was paused or reduced and there were fewer referrals to services. Since then services have been remobilising but capacity is constrained by the requirement for additional infection control measures. In addition, further waves of the virus have slowed the recovery of services due to the need to again pause or reduce services for reasons such as increased staff absence or the need to divert resources because of an increase in unscheduled hospitalisations.

Further background information on NHS Scotland Waiting Times, including diagnostics, can be found here – CEL 33 (2012).

Further information

For more information see the Waiting Times section of our website. PHS have developed an animation, with further explanations of how waiting times are calculated. A more detailed report can be accessed via the following link: Diagnostic Tests and Investigations.

The next release of this publication will be 30 August 2022.

NHS Performs

A selection of information from this publication is included in NHS Performs. NHS Performs is 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: 13 June 2022
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