Revised 12 November 2020 - Due to a data formatting issue, an error occurred in the figures reported for NHS Orkney in September 2020. As a result, Public Health Scotland has revised the census and bed day figures for September 2020. The census figure has increased by 1, and the bed days figure has increased by 30. The affected figures have been highlighted in both census and bed days tables.

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 September 2020, there were 32,959 days spent in hospital by people whose discharge was delayed.
  • In September 2020, the average number of beds occupied per day due to delayed discharges was 1,099. This is an increase of 5% compared to August 2020 when the daily average was 1,043, but lower than the monthly average prior to COVID-19 measures being put in place.
Image caption Delayed Discharge bed use in Scotland from September 2018 to September 2020
This is a line chart showing the average number of beds occupied per day by delayed discharges. The average number of beds occupied by delayed discharges peaks in October 2018, fluctuates during 2019, peaks again in February 2020, before reducing dramatically in April 2020. May 2020 figures were similar to April 2020 but since then there have been increases in each month from June 2020 to September 2020.
  • At the September 2020 census point, there were 1,110 people delayed. This is an increase of 4% compared to the August 2020 census point when 1,067 people were delayed.
  • Of those delayed at the September 2020 census point, 862 were delayed more than three days with health and social care reasons accounting for 544 delays (63%), complex needs accounting for 285 delays (33%) and patient and family-related reasons for 33 delays (4%).


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 1 December 2020.

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.

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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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