DELAYED discharge in Scotland has hit its worst level in two years, new figures show.

Also known as bed-blocking, the situation occurs when patients are medically fit to return home but unable to leave hospital, frequently due to the lack of a social care package.

Official statistics show 1529 people were affected at the September census point, the most since October 2016 when 1576 patients were unable to leave hospital due to delayed discharge. The number of people affected has risen 9% from the same period last year.

Of the 1529 patients stuck in hospital, 1277 were delayed for more than three days and the most common reason for this was health and social care reasons (77%), followed by complex needs (19%) and patient and family-related reasons (3%).

The National:

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman, pictured above, said reforms introduced should help address the issue. “I have been clear that it is not acceptable for people to be delayed in hospital after their treatment has been completed,” she said.

“The investment that we are making into health and social care integration – more than half a billion pounds transferred this year – will bring about an improvement, but I want to see faster progress.

“While it’s encouraging that 12 partnerships have recorded standard delays of over three days in single figures, we are aware that the worst five performers account for nearly half of these delays.

“We are working with those facing the most significant challenges.”

Opposition parties called for more action by the Scottish Government.

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Tory health spokesman Miles Briggs, pictured above, said: “For years now the SNP has pledged to act on delayed discharge and find a way to reduce it.

“But now the problem is at a two-year high and that’s before the winter pressures we see every year properly kick in.”

He added: “Delayed discharge is a nightmare for patients and hospitals, and it’s time the SNP tried to make a meaningful impact on it.”

Labour said the Government was not adequately investing in social care and called on ministers to set a new target to end delayed discharge after ex-health secretary Shona Robison promised to “eradicate” the problem in 2015.

The LibDem’s Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “It is intolerable on any given day well over 1000 people are stuck in hospital unnecessarily.

“The cost to the NHS is huge and critical opportunities to enable to patients rebuild their lives are lost.”

He called for more investment in NHS resources.