Spending on private agency nurses in Scotland’s NHS has more than doubled in recent years, with almost £600 million shelled out since 2012, it has emerged.
Spending on clinical and non-clinical agency staff has increased from £82 million in 2011/12 to a £175 million in 2015/16, official figures have shown.
The Scottish Government insists that the figures are low and account for less than 1 per cent of the overall NHS workforce. But Labour said the figures undermine SNP pledges to “protect” the NHS.
Labour’s health spokesperson Anas Sarwar said: “The SNP’s decade of NHS mismanagement has left staff under-valued and under-resourced. While refusing to give our NHS staff a pay rise, Nicola Sturgeon is instead forking out hundreds of millions of pounds to private companies because of her failure to workforce plan.
“This makes a mockery of SNP claims to protect our valued NHS and is simply not good enough.”
The use of temporary staff allows the NHS to cover periods of absence, such as long-term sickness and vacancies. A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said their use in Scotland is “low” and in 2015/16 represented just 0.4 per cent of the nursing workforce. Spending on nursing agency staff has reduced 11.3 per cent when compared to 2005/6, The government says.
A spokeswoman added: “The NHS continues to work to reduce both the use of agency staff and their cost to the health service.
“All NHS boards have clear action plans in place to reduce the use of agency staff, and we are also developing regional staff banks to ensure there is a greater pool of flexible staff available to cover short term gaps.”