THE number of patients forced to stay in hospital when they are medically well enough to leave has risen by 12% in a year – prompting calls for the Scottish Government to invest more cash in social care.

A hospital census carried out in December revealed 1379 people had their discharge delayed, including 400 who had been waiting six weeks or more to leave.

While the overall number was the lowest monthly total since April 2019, it was up from the 1236 recorded in the December 2018 census.

Official NHS statistics show that in the last month of 2019 delayed discharges meant patients spent a total of 45,404 days in hospital after they were well enough to leave.

This was a rise of 6% from the total number of delayed days recorded in December 2018.

Three-quarters (75%) of the 1199 patients who were delayed by three days or more in December 2019 were held up in hospital waiting for arrangements to be made for their ongoing health and social care.

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Scottish Labour claimed delayed discharges have cost the Scottish Government £197.8 million since Jeane Freeman became Health Secretary in June 2018.

With Finance Secretary Derek Mackay due to unveil his draft budget later this week, Labour health spokeswoman Monica Lennon said cash must be found to allow councils to “prioritise social care and end delayed discharge once and for all”.

She said: “SNP ministers promised to end delayed discharge but it’s a promise they’ve broken over and over again. We can’t continue to do social care on the cheap. That’s why Scottish Labour is calling for a fair deal for local councils in this year’s budget, to put an end to the delayed discharge crisis that has cost our NHS hundreds of millions of pounds.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “People should not have to spend unnecessary time in hospital once treatment is complete.

“That is why we are investing more than £700m this year to support social care and integration – a 29% increase on last year. Progress has been made in reducing delays – bed days lost were down by 1% between the years 2016-17 and 2018-19.”