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.

Main points

  • In May 2021, there were 35,348 days spent in hospital by people whose discharge was delayed. This is an increase of 67% compared with the number of delayed days in May 2020 (21,225) but lower than figures prior to COVID-19 measures being put in place.
  • In May 2021, the average number of beds occupied per day due to delayed discharges was 1,140. This is an increase of 5% compared to April 2021 when the daily average was 1,087, but lower than the monthly average prior to COVID-19 measures being put in place.
Image caption Delayed Discharge bed use in Scotland from May 2019 to May 2021
This is a line chart showing the average number of beds occupied per day by delayed discharges. The average number of beds fluctuates during 2019 and peaks in February 2020, before reducing dramatically in April 2020. The measure increases each month from June 2020 to September 2020 and then remains fairly steady, with small fluctuations, to May 2021.
  • At the May 2021 census point, there were 1,145 people delayed. This is an increase of 6% compared to the April 2021 census point when 1,084 people were delayed.
  • Of those delayed at the May 2021 census point, 921 were delayed more than three days, with health and social care reasons accounting for 531 delays (58%), complex needs accounting for 354 delays (38%) and patient and family-related reasons for 36 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 percentage change is based on rounded figures.

Delayed discharge figures in NHSScotland have been affected by measures put in place to respond to COVID-19. The marked fall in delayed discharges is likely to be due to patients being moved out of hospital to increase capacity.

The census figure reflects the position as at the last Thursday of the month.

The latest data definitions and national data requirements 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 also available to download from the Scottish Health and Social Care Open Data platform (external website).

For further information on delayed discharges see the delayed discharge section of our website. For related topics, please see the health and social community care (external website) pages.

A selection of information from this publication is included in NHS Performs.

The next release of this publication will be 3 August 2021.

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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