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23 January 2017, 06:40
Health boards have been forced to pay more than £1,500 for an agency nurse to cover a single hospital shift, new figures reveal.
Details released under Freedom of Information showed that NHS Lanarkshire paid £1,565 to an agency for a single shift in 2015-16.
Meanwhile, NHS Lothian said the largest amount it had paid for a single shift in the last three years was £1,528 in 2014-15.
Bosses at NHS Tayside paid £1,251 for a shift in 2015-16, while NHS Ayrshire and Arran estimated the highest single payment it had made between 2013-14 and 2015-16 was between £1,300 and £1,600.
Tory health spokesman Donald Cameron described the figures, which were obtained by the party, as "slap in the face'' to staff nurses in the NHS.
But he added most NHS boards had refused to provide the party with details of the largest amount paid to cover one single nursing shift.
Using agency and bank staff cost health boards across Scotland a total of £158 million in 2015-16.
Health Secretary Shona Robison said the overall bill for agency nurses and midwives was more than 11% lower than it was 10 years ago.
Mr Cameron said: "It is staggering that hard-pressed health boards could find themselves paying this much to an agency for a nursing shift.
"Not only is it an astonishing waste of taxpayers' money, but it's a slap in the face to staff nurses who can only dream of such remuneration.''
He accepted: "Bank and agency nurses play an important role when it comes to helping plug gaps in the NHS.
"But demands of more than £1,500 for a single shift are an abuse, and one health boards should not bow to.''
Mr Cameron said: "The SNP's woeful lack of workforce planning and failure to train enough nurses has created a situation where hospitals are too dependent on bank and agency staff.
"The result of that is health boards paying through the nose, when an adequately resourced rota could have done the job at a fraction of the price.
"Following these revelations, ministers should examine these instances of extremely high payments to agencies, and act to ensure they don't occur again.''
Ms Robison stated: "Bank and agency staff are an important part of our staffing arrangements to allow heath boards to cope with peaks in demand.
"Boards only use bank and agency staff when they have to and the vast majority are the board's own nursing staff agency staff.
"Agency staff make up only 0.4% of overall staffing numbers and the amount of money spent on agency nurses and midwives is 11.3% lower today than it was a decade ago.''
Ms Robison continued: "We want to reduce agency use as much as possible and earlier this year we launched a new initiative, in partnership with NHS National Services Scotland, to drive down the cost and use of all temporary agency staff.
"Around £6 billion is spent on the NHS workforce annually. A record number of people now work within the NHS in Scotland, with 99.6% of all care delivered by NHS staff.
"This includes more than 43,100 qualified nurses and midwives, an increase of more than 2,100 since this government took office.''