About this release

This release by Public Health Scotland (PHS) provides an update on Out of Hours (OOH) Primary Care (PC) service activity from 1 April 2014 to 31 July 2022. COVID-19 Hub and Assessment centre activity is included from March 2020 until March 2022 when the community COVID pathway was ended. Accident and Emergency (A&E) attendances during the out of hours period are also presented.

Main points

  • During January to July 2022, combined OOH PC/COVID Hub and Assessment Centre cases increased, but remained lower overall than pre-pandemic OOH PC cases (9% lower than the same period in 2019).
  • Similarly, the number of A&E attendances in out of hours periods increased, but was lower overall than pre-pandemic levels (11% lower in 2022 than in 2019).

Monthly number of cases/consultations in OOH Primary Care and attendances at A&E (Out of Hours period only) NHS Scotland, January 2017 to July 20221,2

1. Please note that OOH PC data is missing for NHS Lanarkshire between 29th and 31st of July 2022.
2. Between March 2020 and March 2022 this includes COVID Hub and Assessment Centre activity.

  • The number of combined OOH PC/COVID Hub and Assessment Centre consultations increased steadily and remained higher overall than pre-pandemic OOH PC consultations (12% higher than the same period in 2019).  This higher number of consultations per case in part reflects the reconfiguration of OOH PC for COVID-19 activity. The ratio of consultations to case has decreased slightly since the community pathway was closed at end of March 2022.
  • In the year prior to the Community COVID pathway closing on 31 March 2022, COVID Hub/assessment centres accounted for around 22% of the overall OOH PC activity (around 17,500 consultations per month).
  • Pre pandemic, consistently nearly six out of ten consultations took place in a Primary Care Emergency Centre (PCEC), but this shifted to phone consultations during the pandemic.  For January to July 2022, only around 28% of consultations were in a PCEC (increasing slightly since COVID pathway closed). Doctor/Nurse telephone calls accounted for around 42% of all consultations.
  • As in previous years, the very young (<5 years), the elderly (75+ years) and people living in the most deprived areas had the highest OOH PC contact rates during 2022.

Background

From April 2014, data on activity at OOH Primary Care services have been collected across Scotland and maintained by PHS in the national data warehouse. The OOH period includes evenings, weekends and the Easter, Christmas and New Year public holidays.

Between March 2020 and the end of March 2022 people calling with the main symptoms of COVID-19 were managed via a dedicated COVID-19 triage line and transferred to NHS Boards for further assessment and management if required. The data in this publication includes calls following this pathway in the out of hours period, as both are dealt with at NHS Board level by OOH Primary Care hours services. Patient consultations are recorded as an attendance at Primary Care Emergency Centres (PCEC), Home Visits and/or Primary Care OOH advice. An OOH patient contact/case can have more than one consultation type (e.g. PC OOH advice followed by home visit).

Further information

The date for the next release of this publication is to be confirmed.

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Older versions of this publication

Versions of this publication released before 16 March 2020 may be found on the Data and Intelligence, Health Protection Scotland or Improving Health websites.

Last updated: 20 November 2023
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