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

A hospital census carried out in December revealed 1,379 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 1,236 recorded in the December 2018 census.

READ MORE: Delayed discharges cost NHS £650m over five years, figures suggest

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 six per cent from the total number of delayed days recorded in December 2018.

Three-quarters of the 1,199 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.

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.”

Ms Lennon added: “People being stuck in hospital for too long because the care they need isn’t in place is not only distressing for them and their families, it’s putting unnecessary strain on our hospitals.

“The SNP has been mismanaging our health service for 13 years and has fuelled a crisis in social care.

“Enough is enough and that’s why Scottish Labour is calling for the budget to invest in local councils, prioritise social care and end delayed discharge once and for all.”

Age Scotland said Thursday’s budget must prioritise “investment in our precious social care services”.

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Adam Stachura, head of policy at the charity, said: “It is once again extremely disappointing to see how many older people are being kept in hospital because of the failure to get to grips with the lack of available social care in the community.

“Of the 1,379 people being kept in hospital in December despite being medically fit to go home, 747 were over the age of 75 – and in 75 per cent of all cases the reason was lack of social care.

“We urgently need more recruitment and investment in our precious social care services and we very much hope that ministers and MSPs have made this a priority in Thursday’s Scottish budget.”