Bed blocking in Scottish hospitals returns to pre-pandemic level, figures show

Delayed discharges have hit another post-pandemic high, with patients spending a total of 46,171 unnecessary days in Scottish hospitals in August.

An average of 1,489 beds were occupied each day by patients medically cleared to leave hospital, but who had not been discharged.

It is an increase of 9% from July and the highest level of delayed discharge since February 2020.

Almost two thirds (65%) of the 46,171 days where beds were occupied despite the patient being cleared to leave involved a person over the age of 75, according to the latest Public Health Scotland figures.

On the last Thursday of August – used as a census point to compare monthly statistics – there were 1,179 people delayed more than three days.

Of those, health and social care reasons caused 780 of the delays (66%), patients’ complex needs accounted for 360 delays (31%) and patient and family-related reasons were responsible for 39 delays (3%).

The number of delayed discharges plummeted at the start of the pandemic, dropping from 1,452 to 676 between March 2020 and April 2020.

But since April 2020, delayed discharges increased in all but four months, with the latest increase being the fourth successive rise.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde had the most days where beds were occupied by delayed discharge cases with 9,479, followed by NHS Lothian with 7,495 and Lanarkshire with 5,034.

Challenged about an SNP pledge from 2015 to eradicate delayed discharge, the Health Secretary, Humza Yousaf, said: “My predecessor Jeane Freeman had managed to drive down some of that delayed discharge, but it’s a challenge we face with an ageing demographic and the challenges in social care.”

Speaking after announcing a £300 million funding package to help the health and care sector through the winter, Mr Yousaf added: “We hope to see a significant reduction in delayed discharge over the course of the winter which will free up bed capacity, which will help us with these winter pressures.”

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