About this release

This release by Public Health Scotland (PHS) presents a summary of delayed discharge information across NHSScotland up to March 2023.

Main points

  • In the financial year ending 31 March 2023, there were 661,705 days spent in hospital by people whose discharge was delayed. This is the highest annual figure reported and is an increase on the totals in 2021/22 (540,302) and 2019/20 (542,204), the last financial year before COVID-19 measures were introduced.
  • The number of people who were discharged after delay in 2022/23 was 18,157, higher than the 2021/22 figure of 17,184 but lower than the 22,294 people discharged after delay in 2019/20.
  • 2022/23 has seen an increase in the average time people spend in delay (11 days) and the average period of stay before they go into delay (44 days) compared to 2021/22 (9 and 37 days) and 2019/20 (7 and 33 days).
  • The reasons for delay (based on the monthly censuses across the financial year) are shown in the infographic below (Note: "Other" includes funding, transport, patient and family related reasons).


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. The data relate to people aged 18 years and over who were clinically ready for discharge.

Delayed discharge figures in NHSScotland have been affected by measures put in place to respond to COVID-19.

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.

Revised data definitions and national data requirements 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.

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 December 2023.

NHS Performs

A selection of information from this publication is included in NHS Performs. 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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