About this release

This release by Public Health Scotland (PHS) provides a monthly update on the number of patients in NHSScotland who have had their planned hospital operation cancelled the day before, or on the day of their planned operation and the reason for this cancellation.

Main points

  • The total number of planned operations across NHSScotland during February 2020 was 27,645, which is similar to during February 2019 when there were 27,762.
  • 2,481 operations (9.0% of all planned operations) were cancelled in February 2020, ranging from 5.6% to 12.4% across individual NHS Boards. This compares to 2,455 (8.8%) in February 2019.
  • In February 2020, of all planned operations:
    • 3.3% were cancelled by the patient
    • 3.3% were cancelled by the hospital based on clinical reasons
    • 2.0% were cancelled by the hospital due to capacity or non-clinical reasons
    • 0.3% were cancelled due to other reasons.

Cancellation reason for planned operation
This is a line chart showing data on the total percentage of patients in NHS Scotland who had their Planned Operation Cancelled for the reasons of clinical, non clinical/capacity, cancelled by patient and other reason. Data is from May 2015 to February 2020. The data shows:. A peak in cancellations for non-clinical/capacity reasons in January 2018 (4.5%). This was linked to increased emergency admissions causing additional demand for beds.. A peak in March 2018 for non-clinical/capacity reasons (4.1%) and other reasons (1.5%). This was due to poor weather affecting patient and staff travel.. A peak in cancellations for non-clinical/capacity reasons in November 2018 (3.4%). This relates to the unplanned, temporary closure of the Cowlairs decontamination unit in NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde.


These statistics are released monthly. Data for this publication are submitted from NHS board theatre systems.

The below definitions are used for the cancellation reason groupings:

  • Cancellation based on clinical reason by hospital includes patient unwell, patient not prepared for procedure correctly by hospital and patient did not follow pre op instruction
  • Cancellation based on capacity or non-clinical reason by hospital includes no beds available, staff not available, equipment not available and theatre session overran
  • Cancellation by patient includes patient decides not to go ahead with procedure, patient unable to attend, patient did not attend and patient did not attend pre-op
  • Other includes fire alarm prevents operation from taking place, weather prevented patient / staff travelling and patient transport did not arrive in time to bring patient to hospital.

Further information

Data from this publication is available to download from the data files section at the top of this page. Open data is available from the Scottish Health and Social Care Open Data platform (external website).

For more information on cancelled planned operations see the cancelled planned operations section. For related topics, please see the waiting times pages on the Data and Intelligence website (external website).

The next release of this publication will be May 2020.

NHS Performs

A selection of information from this publication is included in NHS Performs. NHS Performs (External website) is a website that brings together a range of information on how hospitals and NHS Boards within NHSScotland are performing.

General enquiries

If you have an enquiry relating to this publication, please contact phs.waitingtimes@phs.scot.

Media enquiries

If you have a media enquiry relating to this publication, please contact the Communications and Engagement team.

Requesting other formats and reporting issues

If you require publications or documents in other formats, please email phs.otherformats@phs.scot.

To report any issues with a publication, please email phs.generalpublications@phs.scot.

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: 07 October 2022
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