Waiting times

The Scottish Government has provided guidance to NHS Boards to ensure all patients are managed fairly and consistently across Scotland and that planned care waiting times are minimised to ensure the best outcomes for patients.

Waiting times – 12 week standard

NHS Scotland has 3 waiting times standards:

  • 95% of new outpatients should receive an outpatient appointment within 12 weeks
  • 100% of patients should receive their treatment within 12 weeks
  • Patients should receive any of the following key diagnostic tests / investigations within 6 weeks:
    • Upper endoscopy
    • Lower endoscopy (excluding colonoscopy)
    • Colonoscopy
    • Cytoscopy
    • CT scan
    • MRI scan
    • Barium Studies
    • Non-obstetric ultrasound

NHSScotland uses waiting time standards to help:

  • reduce patient anxiety
  • improve the quality of life of patients
  • improve the clinical outcomes
  • improve the timeliness of treatment

Acute hospital waiting times

During the Covid-19 pandemic it was necessary to reduce the scope and scale of planned care services to minimise the spread of the virus and to allow our NHS staff to concentrate on critical and life-saving care. Regrettably this has meant that people are often waiting too long to receive the help they need. The NHS has also faced severe pressures over the winter period and rising inflation costs. This has an impact on the number of planned care appointments and procedures the health service has been able to provide.

This is why we announced additional annual funding of £100 million in October 2023. This funding will help reduce waiting lists by an estimated 100,000 patients over three years, subject to the annual Scottish Budget setting process. An initial investment of £30 million is being provided to health boards as the first tranche of this funding to treat patients in 2024.

We are also working closely with NHS Scotland’s Centre for Sustainable Delivery (CfSD). CfSD is playing a central role in working with health boards to ensure that they are able to:

  • continually identify new ways to increase capacity
  • develop new pathways of care that are more efficient
  • enhance delivery of services in community settings
  • reduce the variation and waiting times for planned care by adopting minimum standards to deliver higher volume activity

Our National Treatment Centres (NTCs) Programme is the single biggest increase in planned care capacity ever created in NHS Scotland. We opened two new NTCs in Fife and Highland in spring 2023. NTC-Forth Valley and the second phase expansion of NTC-Golden Jubilee are expected to open in 2024. These centres will deliver:

  • eight orthopaedic theatres
  • an inpatient/day-case ward
  • three endoscopy rooms
  • two general theatres
  • around 20,000 additional procedures when fully operational

More information

More information about waiting times is on the NHS Inform website.


Waiting Times Policy: waitingtimespolicy@gov.scot

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