Mental health patients in Scotland are spending more than three years stuck in acute wards before being discharged from hospital.
Details revealed under freedom of information rules show NHS Lothian had the longest wait, recorded at 1,200 days, while NHS Tayside listed one delay of 1,196 days and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde had one of 1,193.
Across the UK, at least 91 mental health patients have waited more than a year to be discharged, while in Scotland 19 have been waiting more than two years.
The revelation has led to an apology from the director of nursing for NHS Lothian, Prof Alex McMahon, while opposition politicians labelled the waits a “national disgrace”.
Health Secretary Shona Robison described the cases as being under “exceptional circumstances” – as Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats all demanded action from the Scottish Government.
Prof McMahon said: “We would like to apologise to all patients who have experienced a delay in being discharged from care. We know no one wants to stay in care longer than they need to, which is why we aim to discharge patients as soon as we can.”
In February, when the FOI requests were processed, NHS Tayside had 29.4 per cent of acute mental health care beds taken up by patients who were ready for discharge.
The board said that this figure fluctuates and was down to 16 per cent on 1 August.
Scottish Conservative mental health spokeswoman Annie Wells said: “The SNP has promised for years to tackle delayed discharge but the figures show no sign of improvement. Examples here show the extreme cases where vulnerable people are fit to leave hospital but have nowhere to go, sometimes for years on end. It’s unacceptable and has to be addressed as a matter of urgency.”
The Tayside and Glasgow patients had complex needs and were awaiting transfer to specialist units.
Professor Jason Leitch, national clinical director of healthcare quality and strategy, stressed those enduring long delays were “exceptional cases” affecting “very, very small numbers” of patients who faced “very, very long delays” to be discharged.
Ms Robison said: “These cases are exceptional circumstances – mental health patients can present extremely complex needs where mainstream care provision is simply unsuitable.”