About this release

This release by Public Health Scotland (PHS) provides long-term trend information on patients with learning disabilities that were treated in Scottish psychiatric hospitals (1997/98 - 2022/23).

Main points

  • The number of patient discharges from the Learning Disability specialty fell sharply from around 4,700 in 1997/98 to around 1,700 in 2005/06. The decrease continues gradually until 2020/21 (324). This reflects changes in service delivery, moving away from long term hospital care towards more community-based care. Patient discharges increased slightly between 2020/21 and 2021/22 to 402 and to 511 in 2022/23, which may represent a return to anticipated activity levels following relaxation of measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Image caption Discharges from the Learning Disability specialty in Scotland, 1997/98 – 2022/23

For the time period 2017/18 to 2022/23:

  • 69.1% of the discharges from the Learning Disability specialty were for people in the under 25 age group; the number of discharges then reduces sharply as age increases.
  • Of the people who had an episode of inpatient care within the learning disability specialty, there were 3 times more people who live in the most deprived areas.
  • Over 99% of discharges from the Learning Disability specialty were regular discharges. Less than 1% of discharges were irregular or discharges where the patient was deceased.
  • 71.3% of stays in the Learning Disability specialty were between 1-7 days, and 12.3% were longer than 90 days.


This publication relates to patients receiving inpatient care in mental health (psychiatric) hospitals within the learning disability specialty. This information was previously published within the Hospital inpatient care of people with mental health problems in Scotland report, but then became a standalone publication in December 2019, accompanied by open data.

Further information

The next release of this publication will be subject to a forthcoming consultation.

General enquiries

If you have an enquiry relating to this publication, please contact Andrew Murray at phs.mentalhealthanalytics@phs.scot.

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If you have a media enquiry relating to this publication, please contact the Communications and Engagement team.

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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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