DELAYED discharges in Scotland’s hospitals have reached the highest level since the start of the pandemic while A&E waiting times in June were the second-worst since records began, figures show.

Data from Public Health Scotland (PHS) shows a total of 37,136 bed days were lost in June, despite patients being well enough to leave hospital – the highest figure since March last year.

The figure is a 57% increase from the same time last year and 5% higher than in May.

An average of 1,238 beds were occupied in Scotland per day during June as a result of so-called bed blocking, 9% higher than the previous month, and the highest number since the Covid-19 pandemic hit Scotland.

READ MORE: Scottish delayed discharge figures worst since lockdown began

PHS employs a “census point” with these statistics – a chosen date during the surveyed time to allow for the comparison of monthly statistics – in this case the last Thursday of the month.

At this point, 1,276 people were delayed – an increase of 11% from same day the previous month when the figure was 1,145 and 58% higher than the same day last year.

On this day, 996 people had been waiting more than three days.

Of those, 61% (607) were due to health and social care concerns, according to the figures, while 36% (360) were caused by complex needs and 3% were for patient and family-related reasons.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “The whole health and social care system has faced significant pressure due to the pandemic and its wider impact, but frontline staff have been tremendous in delivering care.

“As we emerge safely from coronavirus restrictions we are seeing pent-up demand coming through the system with many of those ready to leave hospital now requiring a far more extensive package of care to be in place before they can be discharged.

“Staffing capacity is also under pressure as a result of self-isolation and sickness, along with the traditional increase in leave during the summer months.

“We are actively seeking to address these pressures with the launch of a national recruitment process this week, liaising with local authorities and wider health and social care partners and aiming to get more students in to help.

“Disclosure Scotland has also agreed to fast track its clearance processes for new entrants into the social care workforce.

“Despite these pressures, current numbers of delayed discharge days remain significantly below the level seen before the pandemic. The 37,136 figure for June this year is down 12% on the 42,252 for June 2019.

READ MORE: Scottish Labour says ending delayed discharge must be a top priority

“To ensure best practice on discharge planning, arrangements are being taken forward across the country, the minister for mental wellbeing and social care will be chairing a new implementation group to help deliver further improvements.

“Decisions about care and treatment should always be clinically based, in the individual’s best interests and taken in consultation with the individual or their families and representatives. It is not a decision that the Scottish Government either directs or makes.”

The Scottish Liberal Democrats have called on the Scottish Government to address their “legacy” of delayed discharges.

The figures have been steadily increasing, with an 11% increase from last month.

Scottish LibDem health spokesperson, Alex Cole-Hamilton, said: “These figures are the legacy of this SNP Government's long-term neglect of the social care sector. The SNP Government continues to produce poor results for patients waiting on a care package and it is tying up NHS staff too.

“These unnecessary delayed discharges worsen the health conditions of many and affect their mental health, making recoveries slower and harder.”

He added: “A new and improved care system can’t get lost in the weeds of new centralised boards and bureaucracies, which is the risk of a national care service.

READ MORE: SNP told to 'get a grip' after third-worst week for missing A&E target

“The Government should instead get on and establish new national care standards that patients can depend on, backed by a step change in pay, conditions and careers for social care staff."

Figures also revealed that only 85% of the 136,847 patients attending A&E in June were admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours, leaving 20,466 people waiting for longer than the target time.

A higher proportion of patients waiting longer than the Scottish Government’s target has only been recorded once before – in December 2019, when 83.8% were seen in four hours.

June’s figure is down from the 87.2% recorded in May, and significantly below the 95.6% seen in fours hours during the same month last year.

The Scottish Government’s target is for 95% of patients to wait no longer than four hours, although this has not been met since July 2020.

The PHS figures also show 2,396 (1.8%) patients were waiting in A&E for more than eight hours and 532 (0.4%) people faced waits of more than 12 hours.

Although attendances at A&E are now higher than during the coronavirus pandemic’s first wave – 136,847 patients in June 2021 compared with 112,185 in June 2020 – it is still 10,780 fewer than the pre-pandemic figure of 147,627 in June 2019.

The latest weekly figures also show declining A&E performances in relation to meeting the waiting time target, with just 20,954 (79.7%) of the 26,305 admitted, transferred or discharged in four hours.

For the three full weeks of July recorded so far, more than one in five (20.5%) have waited longer than four hours.

READ MORE: Scotland's hospitals 'jammed' amid signs that pandemic backlog starting to hit NHS

Last month also recorded two of the six times on record that waiting time performance has fallen below 80%.

Scottish Conservative health spokeswoman, Annie Wells, said: “Accident and emergency waiting times are at their worst level in almost two years. The number of people waiting far too long for treatment is alarming.

“The number of planned operations being cancelled at the last minute has also reached the highest rate in months, leaving patients in the lurch.

“Humza Yousaf seems to be totally oblivious to the escalating predicament facing our frontline NHS staff.”

She added: “Prior to the pandemic, the SNP were routinely missing key targets, and despite everything Scotland has been through, this abysmal record is getting worse rather than improving.

“SNP ministers should urgently back Scottish Conservative plans for an extra £600 million investment in our NHS to specifically tackle waiting times.

“The SNP Government need to up their game to ensure our fantastic NHS staff are properly supported to give patients the healthcare they deserve.”