About this release

This release by Public Health Scotland and the Scottish Intensive Care Society Audit Group (SICSAG) provides a summary of the activity, interventions and outcomes of critical care services in NHSScotland.

Main points

  • No intensive care or combined unit in Scotland was found to have a significantly higher mortality rate than the Scottish average.
  • Delayed discharges continue to be challenging, with almost half of patients delayed more than 4 hours. This is very similar to previous years.
  • All intensive care units (ICUs) are achieving the Scottish Intensive Care Society minimum standards and quality indicators (MSQIs) for the majority of patients.
  • Some high-dependency units (HDUs) have struggled to meet the MSQIs. This is, in part,due to COVID-19-related workload which has had an impact on planned quality improvement work in some areas.
  • Health Boards highlighted staffing shortages in some areas with difficulty in filling healthcare staff posts.


Critical care units are specialist hospital wards for the most severely ill or injured patients. They treat patients with a high level of complexity. This audit includes all ICUs and the majority of HDUs in 2020 in NHSScotland. It is not possible to provide an accurate figure on the number of HDUs due to differing provisions across all specialties and Health Boards. However, it is estimated that more than 95% of all HDUs participated in this audit. The audit covers over 46,000 patients admitted to critical care units in NHSScotland during 2020.

SICSAG aims to improve the quality of care delivered to critical care patients by monitoring and comparing activities and outcomes. The audit of critical care is a co-ordinated quality improvement programme which provides data, analysis and feedback to raise standards and continued improvement in patient outcomes. Critical care units have provided detailed comments where any MSQIs were not fully met.

Specific COVID-19-related data are available in the seven COVID-19 reports published in 2020 and 2021. https://publichealthscotland.scot/publications/show-all-releases?id=20581

Further information

The next release of this publication will be 09 August 2022.

General enquiries

If you have an enquiry relating to this publication, please email phs.sicsag@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: 13 June 2022
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