The rising number of hospital beds being blocked by delayed discharges is unacceptable, the Scottish Health Secretary has admitted.
An average of 1,516 beds in Scotland’s hospitals were occupied by someone who was clinically ready to be discharged, official NHS figures for September show.
The number of patients delayed from leaving hospital rose by 9% to 1,529 people in a single day, compared with the 1,397 at the same point last year.
Of those, 1,277 patients were delayed more than three days before they were able to leave.
The most common reason for delays over three days was health and social care reasons (77%), followed by complex needs (19%), and then patient and family-related reasons (3%).
A total of 45,470 days were spent in hospital by people whose discharge was delayed, an 8% increase from September 2017.
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman MSP said: “I have been clear that it is not acceptable for people to be delayed in hospital after treatment is completed.
“Our integration of health and social care, along with the investment of nearly half a billion pounds this year, will bring about longer term sustainable improvement.
“However, these statistics clearly show a concerning picture, with some partnerships performing much better than others.
“I want to see the pace of progress on integration accelerated, and we will continue to work closely with those partnerships facing the most significant challenges.
“In particular, I expect to see those actions proven to have worked in better performing partnerships adopted in every area. With this in mind, my officials have started visiting some of the better performing areas so that they can share the learning more widely across the system.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP said: “It’s atrocious that on any given day well over 1,000 people are stuck in hospital unnecessarily.
“Some patients have been trapped in hospital for so long that it must feel like they’ve taken up residency.
“Medical staff have told them they are ready to leave hospital but they can’t because the care they need in the community simply isn’t there.
“The cost to the NHS is huge and opportunities for patients to rebuild their lives are slipping away.
“It’s essential that our hardworking health workers get the resources they need, as well as an exit from Brexit which threatens to drastically reduce staff numbers, making the situation even worse.”
Chief executive of Age Scotland Brian Sloan described the figures as “disappointing and embarrassing”, adding delayed discharges cost the NHS an average of £234 per day or £1,638 per week, compared to local authority payments of £253 per week for personal and nursing care.
Mr Sloan said: “Each of these people stuck in hospital are at risk of infection, psychological distress and loss of strength and mobility.
“How bad does it have to get for this to become a national priority? With our population ageing faster than the rest of the UK, it’s important we get to grips with this and identify better solutions to support older people’s recovery following a hospital visit.
“Older people shouldn’t be leaving hospital in a worse state than when they came in. The Scottish Government and NHS Scotland should treat this as a priority, and ensure social care is properly funded and staffed in order to turn this around.”