DELAYS in discharging medically fit patients from Scottish hospitals have cost taxpayers more than £1billion since the SNP promised to “eradicate” the problem.

New figures compiled by Scottish Labour show that in the decade since 2013/14, the bill for delayed discharge reached £1.26bn, almost all of it under Nicola Sturgeon.

In February 2015, Ms Sturgeon’s first choice as health secretary, Shona Robison, told the BBC: “I want, over the course of this year, to eradicate delayed discharge out of the system, and I am absolutely determined to do that.”

However the problem of well, mostly elderly patients lingering in hospital due to other issues, such as the lack of a care package at home or a residential place, continued.

Since Ms Robison’s statement, more than 4million bed days have been lost to delayed discharge, and more than 5m since 2013/14.

Since Humza Yousaf took on the health brief in May 2021, more than 850,000 bed days have been lost at a cost to the public purse of £240m.

Scottish Labour deputy Jackie Baillie said country “cannot afford to pay the price of the SNP” any said the issue was symbolic of its failure to deliver on its promises.

She said: “Years on from the SNP promising to end the deadly and costly practice of delayed discharge, the problem still persists and is in fact getting worse.

“This whopping cost to the taxpayer has built up on Nicola Sturgeon’s watch and the disastrous Health Secretary, Humza Yousaf, has allowed it to soar.

“We cannot have patients left in hospital unnecessarily and the public purse drained due to poor provision of care for those leaving hospital.

“It’s time for Humza Yousaf to face the music and hand the role over to someone who is prepared to tackle the issue.”

The latest official figures showed a record average of 1,898 beds occupied per day due to delayed discharge in October, with the average patient delayed 23 days.

Mr Yousaf said the Scottish Government was "working hard" with health boards and the care sector to ensure those clinically fit to be discharged were supported into more appropriate care, at home or in the social care sector.

He said: “Hospital at Home services have been increased, care at home capacity has been enhanced, social work pay has increased and £20 million has gone to provide interim care arrangements.

“Like health services across the UK and globally, NHS Scotland is working under significant pressure and the pandemic continues to affect services.

“Social care has been hit by a triple whammy of Brexit, which has impacted staffing, the pandemic and high energy and inflation costs, all putting significant pressure on the sector.

“Getting those with no clinical need to be in hospital into more appropriate care does not only make financial sense, but it is clearly the right thing to do for patients, their loved ones and all our hard-working staff across health and social care and we continue to work with our partners to address these challenges.”