The modern outpatient: a collaborative approach 2017-2020

Healthcare strategy providing opportunities for transformation which improves efficiency and puts individuals at the heart of their own care.

2. Key Facts

2.1 NHSScotland delivers almost 5 million outpatient appointments every year. Patients attend outpatient appointments for one of three broad reasons:

  • an initial referral to acute care to get more specialist opinion and diagnosis;
  • for treatment, which may be a series of treatments over time; or
  • for follow-up to check on outcomes and/or continuing symptoms.

During 2015/16 there were a total of 4,500,280 outpatient attendances, of which 1,486,522 were new and 3,013,728 were return appointments.

Return appointments accounted for 67% of all acute outpatient activity (see Annex 1).

2.2 During the period 2007/08 to 2015/16:

There has been an 8% increase in new outpatient attendances to all specialties (excluding A&E), (see Annex 2).

Some high volume specialties have experienced significant growth in new attendances:

Gastroenterology 109%
Dermatology 26%
General surgery 26%
Respiratory medicine 82%
Ophthalmology 11%

2.3 Some high volume specialties have experienced significant growth in all attendances (new and return):

Gastroenterology 64%
Respiratory medicine 46%
Dermatology 17%
Ear, Nose and Throat ( ENT) 11%
General surgery 12%

2.4 GPs workload has also grown in both volume and complexity with 24.2 million consultations taking place on an annual basis. GP consultation rates have increased by 11% over the last 10 years.

Redesign in action: Redesign which delivers results

Sustained service redesign which addresses the management of both new and return patients has reversed the growth trends in appointments. Fracture Pathway Redesign and the development of Musculoskeletal ( MSK) services are having a positive impact in off-setting potential growth. Trauma and Orthopaedics new and return appointments have reduced by 15% since 2007/8 through clinically-led redesign of pathways


Email: Pauline Fyfe,

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

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