About this release

Revised on 16 December 2021. Following a data quality assurance review,  an error was discovered in the delayed discharge bed day rate per 1,000 population aged 75 and over for some HSCPs in 2020/21. As a result, figures contained in Table 5 within the Excel data tables and a section of the publication report (page 10) have been revised.

This release by Public Health Scotland (PHS) presents a summary of delayed discharge information across NHSScotland up to March 2021. This is a planned revision of the 18 May 2021 release to include updated data on the proportion of all hospital beds occupied by delayed discharges to 2020/21, bed day rate per population aged 75 years and over, costs information to 2019/20 and a new section on discharges from hospital.

Main points

  • In the financial year ending 31 March 2021, there were 358,426 days spent in hospital by people whose discharge was delayed. Of these, 63% were occupied by people aged 75 years and over.
  • There was a decrease of 34% in the average daily number of beds occupied by people whose discharge was delayed between financial years ending 31 March 2020 and 31 March 2021. This decrease will be influenced by the measures put in place to respond to COVID-19.
  • The reasons for delay are:
    • complex delay reasons
    • awaiting completion of care arrangements
    • awaiting place availability
    • awaiting community care assessment
    • other including funding, transport, patient and family related reasons
  • During the financial year ending 31 March 2021, approximately 1 in 14 (7.0%) beds in NHSScotland were occupied by people who were delayed in their discharge.
  • In the financial year ending 31 March 2021, there were 14,375 discharges from hospital following a period of delay accounting for 2.9% of all hospital discharges (501,694).
  • In the financial year ending 31 March 2020, the estimated cost of delayed discharges in NHSScotland was £142 million, with an estimated average daily bed cost of £262.


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. The marked fall in delayed discharges during 2020 is likely to be due to patients being moved out of hospital to increase capacity.

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.

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

For more information on delayed discharges see the delayed discharge section (external website) of the Data and Intelligence website.

The next release of this publication will be in May 2022.

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: 21 March 2024
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