Delayed patient discharge will likely exacerbate bed shortages. This study prospectively determined the frequency, causes and potential cost implications of delays for 83 consecutive patients, who were inpatients for a total of 888 days. 65% of patients experienced delay whilst awaiting a service. 48% of patients experienced delays that extended their discharge date. Discharge delays accounted for 21% of the cohort's inpatient stay, at an estimated cost of 565 sterling pounds per patient; 77% of these hold-ups resulted from delays in the provision of social and therapy requirements. Discharge delays are costly for hospitals and depressing for patients. Investment is required to enable health and social-care professionals to work more closely to improve the patient journey.