About this release

This release by Public Health Scotland (PHS) provides an update on how long people waited to start treatment with psychological therapies provided by NHS Scotland, for the quarter ending June 2021.

NHS boards made changes to their service delivery in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. All NHS boards have advised that the measures put in place have had an impact on their figures. More information can be found in the data quality document.

Please note NHS Fife resubmitted their referrals data from October 2018. Revised data are shown within this publication.

An update of referrals data from the Child, Adolescent, and Psychological Therapies National Dataset (CAPTND) has been published as an appendix to the main report.

Main points

For the quarter ending June 2021:

  • 19,587 people started psychological therapies treatment in NHS Boards and NHS 24. This is an increase of 8.1% (1,464) from the previous quarter, and also an increase of 81.0% (8,767) from the same quarter the previous year. Half of the people started their treatment within 2 weeks.
  • More than four out of five (82.7%) people started their treatment within 18 weeks, compared to 80.5% for the previous quarter, and 74.7% for the quarter ending June 2020. The Scottish Government standard states that 90% of people should start their treatment within 18 weeks of referral to psychological therapies.
Image caption Percentage of patients who started treatment for psychological therapies within 18 weeks of referral, by quarter in NHSScotland
Figure 1 shows the percentage of patients who started treatment for Psychological Therapies within 18 weeks in Scotland
  • 1,176 people aged 65+ years started treatment with psychological therapies in this quarter. 3% started their treatment within 18 weeks, an increase from 85.2% in the previous quarter and an increase from 84.4% for the quarter ending June 2020.
  • Changes in working practices, including staff being re-deployed and the provision of on-line appointments (which not all patients wished to take up) during the pandemic led to fewer people starting treatment during this time. However, activity has now increased to pre-COVID-19 levels.
  • The number of referrals are now similar to pre-COVID levels, with 41,950 people being referred for psychological therapies (and in some cases further adult mental health services) in Scotland (see data quality document). This is an 11.8% (4,411) increase from the 37,539 people referred in the previous quarter, and a 91.4% (20,035) increase from the same quarter ending June 2020 (21,915 referrals).


Waiting times information for psychological therapies is still being developed. NHS boards are working with PHS and the Scottish Government to improve the consistency and completeness of the information.

Psychological therapies refer to a range of interventions, based on psychological concepts and theory, which are designed to help people understand and make changes to their thinking, behaviour and relationships in order to relieve distress and to improve functioning. The standard applies specifically to psychological therapies for treatment of a mental illness or disorder.

Further information

The Psychology Workforce Planning Project (external website) was initiated in 2001 and is a collaboration between NHS Education for Scotland (NES) and Public Health Scotland.

For related topics, please see either the Waiting Times or MHIT Data and Intelligence pages.

The next release of this publication will be December 2021.

General enquiries

If you have an enquiry relating to this publication, please email phs.psychtherapies@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: 13 June 2022
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