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ISD Scotland better information, better decisions, better health

Waiting Times

How waiting times are used

NHS National Services Scotland ISD Scotland & NHS National Services Scotland

How waiting times statistics are used

Waiting times are important to patients and are a measure of how NHS Scotland is responding to the demand for services. Measuring and regular reporting of waiting times highlights where there are delays in the system and enables monitoring of the effectiveness of NHSScotland performance throughout the country. The NHS in Scotland has been set a number of HEAT targets and standards for maximum waiting times.

ISD collect and publish waiting times information on the following topic areas;

  • Stage of Treatment - outpatients, inpatients and day cases
  • 18 weeks referral to treatment, whole elective pathway
  • Audiology
  • Diagnostics
  • Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS)
  • Psychological Therapies
  • Drug and Alcohol Treatment
  • Emergency Department (Accident and Emergency Services)
  • Cancer
  • Allied Health Professionals - Musculoskeletal Services
  • IVF
  • Chronic Pain

Key Users of waiting times statistics
The Scottish Government uses waiting times statistics to:

  • monitor waiting times performance against each of the targets and standards
  • inform policy decision making
  • respond to parliamentary questions

NHS Boards use the statistics to:

  • monitor local performance against Scottish Government targets and standard and compare performance to other NHS Boards
  • plan services

Local Authorities use the statistics to:

  • plan services and include in their Single Outcome Agreements
  • inform decision making
  • monitor local performance against Scottish Government targets and standards and compare performance to other areas

Other generic users of waiting times statistics are:

  • the general public to identify waiting times in the local area for those listed above
  • the media use the waiting times statistics to report on, all media queries are logged in a central ISD system
  • in addition to the published information, requests are received from other bodies such as academia (all), the police (generally emergency statistics), research charities (all), substance misuse organisations (generally Drug & Alcohol and emergency statistics)

How do we know who is using waiting times statistics

It is important we monitor the use of waiting times statistics to understand the range of users and the use made of the statistics to ensure what we provide is what our users want and need. We do this in a variety of ways such as:

  • ISD analysts involved with waiting times statistics have regular contact with Scottish Government, NHS Boards, Local Authorities ADP leads (Alcohol & Drug partnerships) to discuss their use of the statistics and all waiting times publications evolve over time in response to user's needs
  • Scottish Parliament Information Centre ask ISD for additional information
  • We carry our user consultations for each publication, these are made available on the ISD website and sent to our contacts
  • We monitor local media use through a twice-daily media monitoring report that the ISD library circulate to staff
  • We can monitor use through social media, e.g. twitter comments, web pages visited
  • Each publication contains a 'rate the publication' link that customers can use to provide any comments or additional feedback

If you have any comments or suggestions, please contact us

In addition to the above ISD Support various Policy and Steering Groups around waiting times;

Cancer waiting times statistics are used by the Detect Cancer Early Programme Board. Minutes from Detect Cancer Early Programme Board are made public.

The Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) waiting times statistics are used by the CAMHS Implementation & Monitoring Group. This group monitors progress on implementation of the Mental Health Strategy commitments.

The psychological therapies waiting times statistics are used by the Psychological Therapies Implementation & Monitoring Group. Minutes from this meeting are made public.

The 18 weeks Referral to Treatment publication, alongside the Stage of Treatment, Audiology and Diagnostic publications, are used to help inform demand, capacity and activity in the hospital setting.

The Emergency Department publication informs winter planning, the 4 hour wait in particular highlights where there is pressure on the whole acute care system.

Drugs and Alcohol waiting times statistics are used to inform demand and capacity for substance misuse treatment in NHS Boards and ADPs, and allow ADPs to monitor equity of access for drug and alcohol clients across their local area.


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NHS National Services Scotland,
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Edinburgh EH12 9EB,
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