BED blocking in Scotland’s hospitals “needs to improve”, the Health Secretary has said – as new figures showed the problem is getting worse.

Statistics pointed to a 15 per cent year-on-year increase in the number of patients well enough to be discharged but unable to leave because a care package has not been put in place.

Last month 1,165 patients experienced delayed discharge for health and social care reasons – up from 1,015 at the same time last year.

It came as the Liberal Democrats said failure to hit A&E waiting time targets has become the norm for the Scottish Government.

Official monthly figures show 92 per cent of patients were seen within the four-hour target time in August, under the 95% goal.

LibDem health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said: "Performance against the A&E waiting time has dipped below 90% for three weeks in a row now.

"That hasn't happened since April. The public will be worried about how the NHS will cope through busy winter months if it is struggling this much already.

"The process is far from seamless and that's because there aren't enough resources at each and every stage. Scotland's social care system is under unprecedented pressure and as a result blocked beds are stopping other people leaving A&E.

"Missing this target has become the norm. People demand better from the Scottish Government."

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said Scotland's core accident and emergency departments “have outperformed those in the rest of the UK for more than three years”.

She added: "But clearly there continues to be significant improvement needed and we are working closely with those hospitals that are experiencing challenges to make improvements."

A total of 43,913 days were spent in hospital due to delayed discharge in August, up 5% on the same month the previous year.

Ms Freeman said the integration of health and social care would help combat the problem.

Meanwhile, she told a Holyrood committee that new legislation to improve staffing levels in the NHS would not solve shortages on its own.

The Scottish Government wants to enshrine safe NHS workforce levels in law, but critics have warned this will not address shortfalls.

Ms Freeman told MSPs: “I’m not promising a brave new world, and even if I am this Bill on its own will not deliver it.

“But it will be an important part of getting to a situation where we have increasing confidence that our intention in terms of consistent quality of care is based on sound evidence – and is consistent across our health service.”

The new legislation will mean NHS boards and care services are legally required to have the appropriate number of trained staff in place.