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 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.

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 September 2021:

  • 18,022 people started psychological therapies treatment in NHS Boards and NHS 24 in this quarter. This is a decrease of 8.1% (1,579) from the previous quarter, and an increase of 20.0% (3,004) from the same quarter the previous year.
  • More than four out of five (87.2%) people started their treatment within 18 weeks, compared to 82.6% of people for the previous quarter, and 75.2% of people for the quarter ending September 2020. The Scottish Government standard states that 90% of people should start their treatment within 18 weeks of referral to psychological therapies. Half of the people started their treatment within 2 weeks.
Image caption Percentage of patients who started treatment for psychological therapies within 18 weeks of referral, by quarter for March 2017 to September 2021, NHS Scotland
  • 1,005 people aged 65+ years started treatment with psychological therapies in this quarter. 91.6% started their treatment within 18 weeks, an increase from both 86.2% in the previous quarter and 75.0% for the quarter ending September 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-19 levels, with 40,528 people being referred for psychological therapies (and in some cases further adult mental health services) in Scotland (see the data quality document).¬†This is a 3.5% (1,465) decrease from the 41,993 people referred in the previous quarter, and a 17.8% (6,134) increase from the same quarter ending September 2020 (34,394 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 PHS Public Mental Health team has opened a consultation on the presentation of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and Psychological Therapies (PT) data in our quarterly releases, and you are invited to participate. To submit your comments, please visit the survey online (external website). This consultation will close at 17:00 on 24 December.

The next release of this publication will be March 2022.

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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