Davidson attacks Sturgeon over rise in agency spending for NHS

The Tory MSP criticised the increasing cost of locum medical staff to the health service. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
The Tory MSP criticised the increasing cost of locum medical staff to the health service. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
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NHS spending on agency workers has reached more than £300 million for the first time despite the First Minister saying health boards should “minimise” the use of such staff, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has said.

The Tory MSP criticised the increasing cost of locum medical staff to the health service, saying “taxpayers are shelling out a third of a billion pounds on costly locums and private agency workers despite assurances that numbers would go down and not up”.

She challenged Nicola Sturgeon on the “spiralling cost of locums” after figures this weekend showed almost a quarter of Scotland’s GP practices have at least one medical vacancy.

She pressed Ms Sturgeon on the “SNP’s mismanagement” of the NHS at First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood.

Ms Davidson said: “Just four years ago, only one in ten GP surgeries was missing a doctor, now it’s one in four. That is not progress.

“I’ll spell it out – it is because under the SNP GP services are in crisis and we’ve known it for months.”

Ms Sturgeon, a former health secretary, defended the SNP’s record on the NHS, saying the number of people working in primary care was at a record high when nurses and other health professionals were included as well as GPs.

She said: “Let me also talk about the record of this government – record funding in our National Health Service, record numbers of people working in our National Health Service, a 10 per cent increase since this government took office, extra money being committed to primary care and general practice.”

She pointed to the target the Scottish Government has set to increase the share of health spending that goes to primary care to 11 per cent.