Outpatient and Diagnostic Procedures
We know that the impact of the pandemic on Outpatient appointments has been significant. There has been a reduction of more than 41% in new outpatient activity (which would equate to the loss of around 586,000 appointments) since March 2020, which has led to a build-up of around 200,000 people waiting over the Scottish Government standard of 12 weeks for a first Outpatient appointment. However, throughout the pandemic, the NHS has responded to address the challenges, and has been delivering Outpatient services differently, to ensure that Outpatients appointments could continue, despite the difficulties in carrying out 'face to face' consultations due to the need to maintain protocols to protect the health and safety of patients and NHS staff. Increased use of NHS NearMe, video calls and telephone consultations have ensured that appointments have continued to be provided, albeit in a different format.
The newly created Centre for Sustainable Delivery (CfSD) will work with our NHS boards to introduce new ways of delivering care that will create additional capacity for inpatient, day case and outpatients. They will do this building on the use of video consulting, supporting self-care, and developing alternative pathways of care that will include patients being able to initiate follow up support when required, thus releasing capacity for new outpatient appointments. We've made progress in this area already, for example in many areas the Irritable Bowel Syndrome pathway provides diagnosis and treatment in primary care setting with support from dieticians without the need for a patient attending hospital. Similarly the Coeliac Disease pathway in many areas is now community-led and reduces time to diagnosis.
These actions, together with additional activity will enable us to see 140,000 new outpatients each year by the end of this plan.
Diagnostic imaging is also an important part of the patient pathway, and we will prioritise reducing waiting times for these important procedures. We have provided investment of £29 million to increase diagnostic procedures by 78,000 this year and we will continue this over the course of this plan. Together with innovation in diagnostic procedures we expect to increase capacity by at least 90,000 procedures by the end of the year.