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 September 2020.

NHS Boards, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic made changes to their service delivery in March 2020. All NHS Boards have advised that the measures put in place have had an impact on their figures for this quarter. More information can be found in the Data Quality document (external website).

Main points

For the quarter ending September 2020:

  • 15,029 people started psychological therapies treatment in NHS Boards and NHS 24. This is a 38.8% increase from 10,829 for the previous quarter and a 15.1% decrease from 17,702 for the quarter ending September 2019. Half of the people started their treatment within 2 weeks.
  • Three quarters (75.0%) of people started their treatment within 18 weeks, compared to 74.7% for the previous quarter, and 79.5% for the quarter ending September 2019. 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 - NHSScotland
Percentage of patients who started treatment for psychological therapies within 18 weeks of referral by quarter - NHSScotland
  • 823 people aged 65+ years started treatment with psychological therapies in this quarter. 75% started their treatment within 18 weeks, a decrease from 84.4% in the previous quarter and a decrease from 90.2% for the quarter ending September 2019.
  • 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 have led to fewer people starting treatment during this time. However, as lockdown measures are lifted, the number being seen is returning to pre-COVID levels.
  • Following the end of national lockdown, the number of referrals are rising towards to pre-lockdown levels, with 34,170 people being referred for psychological therapies in Scotland. This is a 56.5% increase from the 21,827 people referred in the previous quarter, and a 13.5% decrease from the same quarter ending September 2019 (39,499 referrals).

Background

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.

During national lockdown, GP Practices and Mental Health services moved to limited face to face consultations, replaced with telephone and video consultations. Between May-September, referrals have been increasing again as GP practices adapt their working, and we are starting to see a return to pre-COVID levels.

Please see the news and updates section of the Data and Intelligence website (external website) for more details.

Please see the full report for more information on the data quality. 

Further information

The latest report and data tables are available from the data files section at the top of this page. Background and further information is available online, on the former ISD webpages (external website). The Psychology Workforce Planning Project (external website) was initiated in 2001 and is a collaboration between NHS Education for Scotland (NES) and ISD.

For related topics, please see either the Waiting Times (external website) or MHAIST (external website) pages.

The next release of this publication will be March 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: 15 July 2021
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