About this release

This annual publication by Public Health Scotland (PHS) presents a summary of delayed discharge information across NHSScotland up to March 2020. This is a planned revision of the 19 May 2020 release to include updated data on the proportion of all hospital beds occupied by delayed discharges to 2019/20 and costs information to 2018/19.

Main points

  • In 2019/20, people delayed in their discharge accounted for 542,204 bed days in NHSScotland. Of these, two thirds (67%) were occupied by people aged 75 years and over.
  • There has been a 4% increase in the average daily number of delayed discharge beds occupied between 2018/19 and 2019/20.
  • During 2019/20, 1 in 11 (8.9%) beds in NHSScotland were occupied by people who were delayed in their discharge.
  • The reasons for delay are:
    • awaiting completion of care arrangements
    • awaiting place availability
    • complex delay reasons
    • awaiting community care assessment
    • other including funding, transport,
      patient and family related reasons
  • Delayed discharge figures in March 2020 were affected by measures put in place to respond to COVID-19. A large reduction can be seen in figures for health and social care reasons between February and March 2020.
  • In 2018/19 the estimated cost of delayed discharges in NHSScotland was £134 million, with an estimated average daily bed cost of £257.
Image caption Note: due to rounding the percentages in the image do not add up to 100%.
Reasons for delay in hospital discharge during April 2019 to March 2020  This bubble chart shows the reasons for delayed discharge from hospital during the period April 2019 to March 2020.  The main reasons for delay were: - Awaiting completion of care arrangements (35%) - Awaiting place availability (23%) - Complex delays (19%) - Awaiting community care assessment (17%) - Other (5%)


Timely discharge from hospital is an important indicator of quality and is a marker for person-centred, effective, integrated and harm-free care. A delayed discharge occurs when a hospital patient who is clinically ready for discharge from inpatient hospital care continues to occupy a hospital bed beyond the date they are ready for discharge. Data relate to people aged 18 years and over.

Revised data definitions and national data requirements (external website) came into effect on 1 July 2016. These align census information and associated bed days and ensure more robust and consistent reporting across Scotland. Some annual comparisons are available throughout the publication. However due to these definitional changes comparisons are limited.

Reason for delay figures are based on an average of the number of delays at each monthly census across the year which reflect the position as at the last Thursday of the month. Complex delay reasons include delays due to adults with incapacity legislation.

The latest available cost information is 2018/19.

It should be noted that data presented in this publication are not directly comparable with other UK countries, due to differences in definitions and data reporting.

Further information

The next release of this publication will be in May 2021.

NHS Performs

A selection of information from this publication is included in NHS Performs (external website). NHS Performs 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 email phs.delayeddischarges@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: 21 March 2024
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