About this release

This annual release by Public Health Scotland (PHS) presents a summary of delayed discharge information across NHSScotland up to March 2021. Detailed information is available for financial year ending 31 March 2021, including the number of bed days occupied by people delayed in their discharge from hospital and the average number of delays across monthly census points. The data relate to people aged 18 years and over who were clinically ready for discharge.

Main points

  • In the financial year ending 31 March 2021, there were 358,426 days spent in hospital by people whose discharge was delayed. Of these, 63% were occupied by people aged 75 years and over.
  • There was a decrease of 34% in the average daily number of beds occupied by people whose discharge was delayed between financial years ending 31 March 2020 and 31 March 2021. This decrease will be influenced by the measures put in place to respond to COVID-19.
  • The reasons for delay are:
    • complex delay reasons
    • awaiting completion of care arrangements
    • awaiting place availability
    • awaiting community care assessment
    • other including funding, transport, patient and family-related reasons
  • Delayed discharge figures have been affected by measures put in place to respond to COVID-19. In particular, a reduction can be seen in delayed discharge figures for health and social care reasons when comparing the year ending 31 March 2021 to time periods prior to these measures being put in place.


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.

Revised data definitions (external website) 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.

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

Data from this publication are available to view on excel data tables along with the full publication report.

For more information on delayed discharges see the delayed discharge section (external website) the Data and Intelligence website.

The next release of this publication will be in 16 November 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: 20 November 2023
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