The number of hospital beds occupied by people who are ready to be discharged has reached a record high in Scotland for the third month in a row.
Latest figures from Public Health Scotland (PHS) show the average number of beds being used by people who were awaiting a care package to leave hospital was 1,950 in November 2022.
It is now the highest figure since the current guidance came into place in July 2016 - up by 3% from October when the daily average was 1,898.
And in September, the daily average was 1,832, highlighting how the issue of delayed discharges has steadily increased as the winter months progress.
The number of people delayed from leaving hospital at the time of the November census point was 1,977 - an increase of 4% in the previous month when 1,910 were delayed.
And the total number of days spent in hospital by patients who no longer needed to be there increased by 25% from the previous year.
Some 58,501 days were taken up by delayed discharges in November 2022 compared to 46,894 from the same point in 2021.
Delayed discharge has been cited as one of the main contributors to the extreme pressures facing the NHS.
In a press conference on Monday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon addressed the issue and said additional funding would be allocated to health and social care partnerships to book beds for those whose discharge is delayed because they do not have appropriate care or accommodation in place.
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said: "In common with health services across the UK and globally, NHS Scotland is facing extreme pressure due to increased levels of flu, effects of the pandemic and recent bad weather.
"It is critical that people are cared for in the right setting and that vital hospital beds are there for those who need them.
"That's why we are working tirelessly with health and social care partnerships, with significant additional funding made available, to ensure patients can access the right care at home or in a community setting, as soon as they are well enough.
"A ministerial advisory group has now been established to discuss and tackle current system pressures. The group meets weekly with the Deputy First Minister, health ministers and minister for local government all in attendance."
Tory MSP Dr Sandesh Gulhane said the effects of delayed discharged have a "devastating" impact on suffering patients.
He said: "The SNP's failure to get a grip on delayed discharge in our hospitals - never mind eradicating it - is having a deeply damaging effect across our health service.
"These figures fly in the face of Nicola Sturgeon's claims only yesterday that the number of patients who are trapped in hospital is reducing. Instead, under her Government, the number of beds occupied each day has hit yet another record high."
He added: "The knock-on effects of delayed discharge have a devastating impact on suffering patients and overwhelmed frontline staff.
"Patients face longer and longer delays at A&E or see their treatments delayed further due to the shortage of beds available."
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: "At the weekend, top doctors described our A&E departments as being unsafe for patients while, this week, the First Minister was finally forced to admit to the crisis facing our NHS in Scotland.
"Many of the issues facing our NHS are inextricably linked to the crisis in social care which today's figures lay bare.
"The Government must move heaven and earth to tackle this emergency. We can't afford to waste time with the constitutional merry-go-round, or to wait for the wrong solution in four years in the shape of an ill-fated ministerial takeover of social care."
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