Protecting patients with the greatest need

New framework to help Health Boards prioritise Elective Care.

As NHS Scotland prioritises essential and urgent care as well as continuing to treat Coronavirus (COVID-19) patients, new guidance has been published to ensure patients with the greatest need are treated first.

The Framework for the Clinical Prioritisation of Elective Care sets out six principles that Boards will follow when making decisions on elective care waiting lists.  It also ensures they have appropriate COVID-19 safety and priority measures in place.

Patient cases will be categorised into four levels of clinically agreed urgency based on their particular clinical condition. This approach will support patients and their clinical team when discussing treatment plans and the categories will inform how quickly patients will be seen and treated, allowing boards to prioritise those most in need. 

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said:

“Throughout the pandemic our guiding principle has been keeping as many people safe as possible – both from COVID-19 and from other health conditions.  We are resuming services as quickly and safely as possible, and this new framework will allow our NHS to prioritise patients who need urgent care, including cancer treatment, ensuring they are treated as quickly and safely as possible.

“As we continue to respond to COVID19, this necessary guidance will ensure patients have a clear and realistic expectation of when they will receive treatment that is clinically appropriate to their individual circumstances.  This is especially important as we approach winter and the additional pressures this places on health services, together with the continuing critical need for the NHS to respond to COVID-19.”

Deputy Chief Medical Officer David Caesar said:

“Health and social care services in Scotland have gone above and beyond in responding to the COVID pandemic since March. However, we recognise that in order to continue doing this, and to provide essential services for emergency and urgent conditions, services may need to be prioritised for patients with the greatest need over the winter months.

“It is vital patients receive the right care in the most timely way possible, and this framework, developed with expert input from senior clinicians across Scotland gives Boards and clinicians the principles to make decisions around elective care proportionately and consistently.”


Coronavirus (COVID-19): supporting elective care - clinical prioritisation framework

The Framework has been developed by a newly formed Clinical Prioritisation Group  which was tasked with delivering key principles to support elective care throughout NHS Scotland.  The group is chaired by the Deputy Chief Medical Officer and is made up of senior clinicians from across Scotland. 


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