Patients who require the medical opinion of a specialist clinician may be referred to an outpatient clinic for treatment or investigation. An outpatient is a patient who attends (outpatient attendance) a consultant or other medical clinic or has an arranged meeting with a consultant or a senior member of their team out with a clinic session. Outpatients are not admitted to a hospital and do not use a hospital bed.
Outpatient attendances can be categorised as new or follow-up (return) attendances. A clinic may be held in a hospital outpatient department, a health centre or another location.
A variety of operations are carried out in NHSScotland and increasingly, less complex procedures are undertaken in an outpatient setting. For further information on these procedures, see the Operations/Procedures section of these pages.
The majority of information within this page is currently classed as National Statistics. Data on Outpatient activity for Nurse and Allied Health Professionals is classed as Official Statistics. Currently the statistics are produced in line with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics, available on the UK Statistics Authority website.
Consultant-led Outpatient Activity
Information on consultant outpatient activity is available for both quarterly and annual time periods. Quarterly data are presented for the most recent 21 quarters and annual figures are shown for the last ten years.
- Annual trends in outpatient activity [1.6Mb]: New and Return attendances and DNA rates by specialty for Scotland and NHS Boards of treatment; financial years 2005/06 to 2014/15 and alternative presentation allows easier comparison of NHS Boards.
- Quarterly Outpatient Activity [69Kb]: Summary for Scotland and NHS Boards of treatment; quarters ending March 2011 to March 2016.
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Please note: to allow as up-to-date trends as possible to be shown, some estimates have been necessary and are presented in the above tables. Quarterly figures may be revised in future publications and should be treated with caution.
Due to the inconsistency in recording practices and subsequent incompleteness and unreliability of the data, and following a consultation with stakeholders in July 2016, it was decided not to include tables on AHPs and nurse-led clinics activity in the annual 2015/16 release. Alternative data sources are being explored. In the meantime, information can be made available on an ad hoc basis if required.
AHP & OTD specialties have been grouped in the tables for presentation purposes. Feedback on the groupings used is welcome. Please note that AHP / OTD contacts with hospital inpatients and day patients are not shown here but can be made available on request.
Other points that should be noted are:
- The information presented is a simple summation of quarterly data returned in aggregate form by boards
- In general, the figures supplied by boards include activity provided by hospital-based services
- Care provided in the community is excluded except where that care is provided by hospital-based staff (an example is the chiropody figures, which exclude information on community-based staff). This is not thought to be universally the case, however, and it is possible that recording practice may vary between some boards, as for certain AHP specialties. For this reason, the figures are better viewed as indicative rather than precise counts of activity and any conclusions drawn from use of these data should take this into account.
Outpatient activity for Allied Health Professionals is currently classed as Official Statistics. The statistics are produced in line with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics, available on the UK Statistics Authority website.
The tables in the documents below present information on reported AHP and Other Technical Departments (OTD) activity collected as part of the existing national ISD(S)1 statistical scheme. Table 1 presents information for new attendances by NHS Board. Data are shown for five financial years ( 2010/11, 2011/12, 2012/13, 2013/14 and 2014/15).
One example of changing methods of delivering care and treatment in hospital has been the greater use of nurse-led outpatient clinics. Although this nurse-led activity has been recognised as a growing feature in the modern NHS, it has not been possible, until now, to quantify the extent of this activity at national level from routine national information systems. Work is in hand to establish robust information processes in NHS Boards that identify the nature and scope of nurse-led activity based on improved definitions and standards and explicit reporting of activities undertaken.
The ISD(S)1 aggregated statistical scheme was extended to capture this activity. The findings of five full years of collection (2010/11, 2011/12, 2012/13, 2013/14 and 2014/15) are presented in the table linked below - covering nurse-led clinics in acute specialties and other non-acute specialties.
Outpatient activity for Nurse Led clinics is currently classed as Official Statistics. The statistics are produced in line with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics, available on the UK Statistics Authority website.
ISD has worked with data suppliers in NHS Boards to overcome some of the difficulties experienced in producing this data over the most recent years to improve its coverage and quality. The data previously published on this site have been revised as a result of this collaborative work to better reflect the extent of this outpatient activity.
ISD has also made provision for the recording of nurse-led activity using the person-based SMR00 recording scheme. This provision should allow, in the future, explicit identification of the types of procedures carried out by specialist nurses as well as insight into the characteristics of patients seen in nurse-led clinics. The table below was not refreshed for the 2015/16 annual release. However, work is ongoing to investigate nurse-led activity in SMR00, with a view to publishing from this source in the future.