About this release

This release by Public Health Scotland (PHS) provides a monthly update on the number of hospital bed days associated with delayed discharges and the number of discharges from hospital that followed a period of delay. Information is also provided on the number of people experiencing a delay in discharge from hospital at the monthly census point. 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.

Main points

  • In November 2020, 33,463 days were spent in hospital by people whose discharge was delayed. This is a decrease of 25% compared with the number of delayed days in November 2019 (44,915).
  • In November 2020, the average number of beds occupied per day due to delayed discharges was 1,115. This is an increase of 4% compared to October 2020 when the daily average was 1,073, but still lower than the monthly average prior to COVID-19 measures being put in place.



Image caption Delayed Discharge bed use in Scotland from November 2018 to November 2020
This is a line chart showing the average number of beds occupied per day by delayed discharges. The average number of beds fluctuates during 2019 and peaks in February 2020, before reducing dramatically in April 2020. Since June 2020 there have been increases each month to September 2020 before decreasing slightly in October 2020 and increasing again in November 2020.
  • At the November 2020 census point, there were 1,024 people delayed. This is an increase of 3% compared to the October 2020 census point when 994 people were delayed.
  • Of those delayed at the November 2020 census point, 787 were delayed more than three days, with health and social care reasons accounting for 475 delays (60%), complex needs accounting for 269 delays (34%) and patient and family-related reasons for 43 delays (5%).
    [Due to rounding the percentages do not add up to 100%].


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 average number of beds occupied per day is calculated by dividing the total monthly number of delayed discharge bed days by the number of days in the calendar month. PHS considers this daily average a better statistic for comparing month on month differences as the number of days in a month varies.

The census figure reflects the position as at the last Thursday of the month.

The latest data definitions and national data requirements (external website) came into effect on 1 July 2016.

It should be noted that figures 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 download from the Scottish Health and Social Care Open Data platform (external website).

The next release of this publication will be 2 February 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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