Hundreds of patients dying each year on delayed discharge lists.

Immediate Release – Monday 5 January

More than 400 patients a year are dying in hospitals across Scotland whilst sitting on a delayed discharge list.

The shock figures were revealed in a freedom of information request by Scottish Labour’s Shadow Public Health Minister Dr Richard Simpson MSP.

According to the official statistics there were 452 deaths in 2012/13 with a further 407 deaths in hospital of patients on delayed discharge lists in 2013/14..

A delayed discharge  is identified as a hospital inpatient  judged clinically ready to leave hospital, who continues to occupy a bed beyond the ready for discharge date. These patients are clinically ready to move on to a more appropriate care setting either within or out with the NHS such as the patient’s home or a care home.

The last figures recorded by the Scottish Government’s Information Services Division figures showed that 154,588 bed days were occupied by delayed discharge patients in the last quarter.

At the October 2014 census, 321 patients were delayed over four weeks; 587 patients were delayed over two weeks.

Dr Simpson said: “Almost every health board in Scotland has had a patient die whilst designated as a delayed discharge, although some had significantly higher numbers than others. For instance,NHS Lothian had 148 patients die on delayed discharge in 2012/13.  To make matters worse, of the 859 deaths that have occurred over a two year period,  only 2 adverse incident reviews have taken place.

“This confirms that remaining in hospital when a patient is ready to leave can be dangerous. I am dismayed that Boards are not reviewing these deaths as adverse incidents. The distress to the families is surely compounded by this failure.”

Dr Simpson was particularly critical of NHS Grampian who do not record these statistics. He had first asked them for information on delayed discharge deaths back in 2010.

He said: “Four years on from raising the issue of deaths of patients designated as fit for discharge, this remains a major issue. As Grampian has one of the largest levels of delayed discharges it is doubly worrying that this Board did not see fit even to record these deaths.”

Dr Simpson is now calling on the Scottish Government’s new Cabinet Secretary for Health, Shona Robison MSP, to order a full review of the reasons behind delayed discharge deaths.


Media Inquiries to David Whitton on 07771 941170 or

Notes to editor


Question to all health boards in Scotland: How many patients died in hospitals within your health board whilst under the delayed discharge database in a)2012/2013 b)2013/2014?


Health Board
2012/2013 2013/2014
Ayrshire & Arran 0 2
Borders 7 <5
Dumfries and Galloway 0 3
Fife 26 34
Forth Valley 24 34
Grampian Not held Not held
GGC 113 60
Highland Did not reply Did not reply
Lanarkshire 90 82
Lothian 148 137
Orkney 2 2
Shetland 1 4
Tayside 41 44
Western Isles 0 0
Total 452 407