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 following a period of delay for a full calendar month. 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.

Main points

  • Delayed discharge figures in NHSScotland have been affected by measures put in place to respond to COVID-19. A large reduction can be seen in both bed days and census figures between March 2020 and April 2020.
  • In April 2020, there were 20,293 days spent in hospital by people whose discharge was delayed.
  • In April 2020, the average number of beds occupied per day due to delayed discharges was 676. In March 2020, the daily average was 1,452, which is a decrease of 53%.
Image caption Delayed Discharge bed use in Scotland; April 2018 – April 2020
This is a combined column and line chart showing the total number of bed days occupied each month (columns) and the average number of beds occupied by delayed discharges (line) during the period April 2018 to April 2020.
The data shows: 
April 2020 figures are 53% lower than the previous month (20,293 compared to 45,009 bed days).
The average number of beds occupied by delayed discharges fluctuated slightly throughout the last two years, peaking in February 2020, falling in March 2020 with a rapid decline in April 2020.
  • At the April 2020 census point, there were 604 people delayed. In March 2020, there were 1,171 people delayed at the census point, which is a decrease of 48%.
  • Of those delayed at the April 2020 census point, 445 were delayed more than three days with health and social care reasons accounting for 230 delays (52%), complex needs accounting for 196 delays (44%) and patient and family-related reasons for 19 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 daily number of beds occupied 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.

Revised data definitions and national data requirements (external website) came into effect on 1 July 2016. These align census information and associated bed days and ensure more robust and consistent reporting across Scotland. Reports published using data prior to July 2016 cannot be used in direct comparison to figures published in this report.

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 7 July 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.

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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