NEARLY 500 people died in Scottish hospitals while waiting to be discharged last year, up by 20% annually, new figures have revealed.

Nearly one in five of of cases was in NHS Lothian, where 86 people died while waiting for care arrangements to be put in place that would allow them to leave hospital Age Scotland called the deaths “tragic” and said urgent action is needed to tackle the growing problem of delayed discharges and an over-stretched social care system.

A Freedom of Information request by the charity revealed that 474 patients, mainly older people, died in hospital after their discharge was delayed. The vast majority (423) were waiting for health and social care packages to be put in place.

The charity said this was a "steep rise" on the previous year’s total of 400, with 353 delayed for health and social care reasons.

Age Scotland was concerned that the figures have consistently increased in recent years, with 373 deaths in 2016 and 282 in 2015.

READ MORE: More than 1,000 'bedblock' deaths since 2015

It comes amid continuing concern over the scale of delayed discharges, which cost the Scottish health service more than £120 million last year.


And it warned of a "wide variation" throughout Scotland, with NHS Lothian reporting 86 delayed discharge deaths, the highest number in Scotland, between April 2018 and March 2019.

This was followed by Grampian (at least 83 deaths), Greater Glasgow and Clyde (69), and Ayrshire and Arran (59).

Only 13 died in the Borders, while Tayside reported fewer than 15 deaths.

Brian Sloan, Chief Executive of Age Scotland, said: “It’s tragic that hundreds of Scottish people died while stuck in hospital last year, instead of in their home or community. These are people who were well enough to be discharged, but most were delayed because the social care they needed was not available.

“While these deaths were not caused by delays, we know that spending unnecessary time in hospital increases the risk of mobility loss and infection, as well as loneliness and isolation.

READ MORE: Scotland’s hospital mortality rate drops by more than 10 per cent

“Many of these people had been in hospital for weeks, spending the end of their lives feeling isolated on hospital wards instead of in the comfort of familiar surroundings. The overwhelming majority of people say they would prefer to die at home if possible, or at least in the comfortable setting of a care home.

“Despite the Scottish Government’s repeated promises to tackle delayed discharges, these figures show that the problem is spiraling out of control. We urgently need more investment in our social care system, so that every older person can access the care they are entitled to.”

Age Scotland’s Waiting for Care report found this year that 43 per cent of older people with “critical” or “substantial” needs wait longer than the six weeks outlined in national guidelines for the social care they need.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We want people nearing the end of life to get the care and support that is right for them, in a place that is right for them. No one should have to spend unnecessary time in hospital once treatment is complete. This emphasises the importance of the continued development of a range of community based services by local health and social care partnerships to let people be cared for longer in their own homes.

“We are allocating more than £700 million to support social care and integration in 2019/20, an increase of 29%, and continue to work closely with health and social care partnerships to ensure the good practice which exists in many areas is spread across Scotland.

“In addition, we are working with Cosla, unpaid carers, people who use services and the social services sector to take forward a national programme to support local reform of adult social care support.”