Shock new figures have revealed that 16 people needlessly languishing in north-east hospitals died over a five week period.
A NHS Grampian spokeswoman said the patients who died between February 23 and March 29 this year were “predominantly elderly with significant underlying health issues”.
She added that an investigation was underway to establish the cause or causes of death and the board was now recording delayed discharges-related deaths on a weekly basis.
North-east Labour MSP Richard Baker described the news as “very worrying” given Health Secretary Shona Robison has claimed that tackling the issue was her top priority.
Bed blocking is caused by a shortage of care home places or care at home provision and the politician said NHS Grampian must examine whether delays had any impact on the deaths.
North-east Conservative MSP Nanette Milne,a former GP, said the news was “deeply concerning” and called for more concerted action.
The deaths occurred despite the government announcing in January that north and north-east health boards had been awarded £17million to help medical staff and local authorities deliver care at home.
A spokeswoman for NHS Grampian said: “We are establishing a process to review the circumstances of these individual patients to look carefully into the cause or causes of their death.
“These patients are predominantly elderly with significant underlying health issues.
“Facilitating prompt and effective discharge is a priority for our health and social care partnerships.”
The spokeswoman said the board recognised that the needs of people being discharged were becoming increasing complex and it was important to ensure that the appropriate community based support was in place.
Mr Baker said: “It is very worrying that 16 people have died while waiting to be discharged from hospital over five weeks.
“I accept that these patients were elderly and had difficult medical conditions but these figures need to come down.”
Mrs Milne said: “It is unacceptable that people are dying in hospital when they are ready for discharge and in many cases actively want to get home.”
Nearly 100 people died in Highland hospitals between 2012-14 because of a shortage of care home places or care at home provision.
A total of 859 people ready to leave hospitals across Scotland died over the period in question, including five in Shetland and four in Orkney.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said the number of overall patients delayed for longer than four weeks had reduced by two thirds and £100million had been given to health boards across Scotland to tackle the issue.
“Health Secretary Shona Robison has reiterated to health boards that they must monitor the outcomes of all patients who have been delayed,” she added.
“NHS medical directors must review any cases where a patient has been deemed medically fit for discharge and subsequently dies before that discharge can take place.”