Delayed discharges ‘at highest level since start of pandemic’

The figures were published by Public Health Scotland.

Delayed discharges ‘at highest level since start of pandemic’ iStock
The figures were published by Public Health Scotland.

Delayed discharges in Scottish hospitals are at the highest level since the pandemic struck, new NHS Scotland figures reveal.

The number of days hospital beds were blocked by patients who were medically cleared to leave but had not been discharged reached 35,348 days in May.

It is more than two-thirds higher (67%) than the same month last year, when 21,225 bed days were taken up by delayed discharges and the highest since March 2020 when the first lockdown was imposed.

The figures, published by Public Health Scotland, reveal there was an average of 1140 beds occupied each day during April 2021 by patients who were clinically able to leave hospital – 153 more than the previous month.

On the last Thursday of May, used as a “census point” to compare monthly statistics, there were 921 people delayed more than three days, an increase of 65 on April 2021.

Of those, health and social care reasons caused 531 of the delays (58%), patients’ complex needs accounted for 354 delays (38%) and patient and family-related reasons were responsible for 36 delays (4%).

The latest figures follow the publication of Public Health Scotland’s annual report that showed the number of delayed discharges plummeted at the start of the pandemic, dropping from 1452 to 676 between March 2020 and April 2020.

But since April 2020, delayed discharges increased in all but four months, reaching the previous peak of 1135 per day in January 2021.

NHS Scotland figures for the year ending March 31 also reveal 63% of the occupied beds in delayed discharge cases were for people over 75, with the remaining 130,902 bed days (37%) occupied by people aged 18-74.

Almost a third (65%) of delays were due to the health and social care system, with care arrangement delays responsible for 28% of cases, a lack of availability in other settings such as care homes blamed for 22%, and patients awaiting community care assessments causing 15% of delays.

There were 30% described as “complex” delay reasons, such as awaiting a place in a specialist facility, where an interim move is not appropriate or if the person legally lacks the capacity to be moved.