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Health is a devolved policy area in Scotland, and the Scottish NHS differs in many regards from the NHS in other parts of the UK, in terms of structure, policy and performance. This briefing paper looks at statistics, key trends, and, where possible, comparison with other parts of the UK in the following areas of the NHS in Scotland:

Accident & Emergency

The NHS in Scotland has a target that 95% of patients should spend under four hours in A&E from arrival to admission, transfer or discharge. For 2015, 93.3% of patients waited under four hours.

Ambulance Performance

The target that 75% of Category A calls should have an ambulance on the scene within 8 minutes was not met for 2014/15 – 72.2% of calls were reached in the target time.

Treatment Waiting Times

NHS Scotland has not met its target of 90% of patient referral-to-treatment journeys completed in 18 weeks since June 2014.

Diagnostic Waiting Times

A higher percentage of patients wait over 6 weeks for MRI and CT scans in Scotland than England.

Cancer Waiting Times

NHS Scotland’s 95% 31 day target from decision to treat to first cancer treatment has been consistently met in recent years, whilst its 95% 62 day target from urgent referral to treatment has not been met since 2012.

Mental Health Waiting Times

There are significant variations in mental health waiting times by regional health board. For child and adolescent mental health waiting times, these differences are even more pronounced


Scotland has more GPs per head of population (8.1) than the other UK nations.

Bed Occupancy

NHS bed occupancy in Scotland has consistently been between 3 and 5 percentage points lower than in England

Delayed Discharges

The number of delayed discharge days has risen in recent years, although the proportion of these days experienced by patients aged over 75 has fallen from 75% to 70% since 2012.

Healthcare Associated Infections

Although NHS Scotland has not yet met its target for SAB cases, the number of MRSA cases has fallen by 88% between 2006 and 2014, from 274 to 32.


Health expenditure per head in Scotland for 2013/14 was the highest of the four UK nations at £2,151. Health expenditure per head in Wales has risen by 6% in real terms since 2009/10.

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