Coronavirus restrictions and hundreds of students graduating early to help in the pandemic has led to a significantly reduced bill on staff cover for NHS Grampian.
The north-east health board has heavily relied on locum doctors and agency nurses in recent years, with millions spent while struggling with recruiting permanent staff.
But so far, spending on agency nurses is down 54% – or £3million – compared to the same seven months of last year, while locum medical costs are down almost a third.
New chief executive Caroline Hiscox told the board around 1,000 extra people had signed up to work for NHS Grampian in the crisis, due to early graduation from medical school and other loosening of regulations.
But some of the change, worth around £6m amid a £15.2m coronavirus bill, is down to a focussed plan to reduce the use of temporary workers.
Prof Hiscox said: “It was to improve our financial performance but predominantly to understand the sustainability and safety of our medical and nursing provision, because they are the biggest workforces we use supplementary staffing around.
“Absolutely, Covid-19 has had an impact on the number of supplementary staff we need to use.
“However, it’s not just been about coronavirus, the initial programme set out, particularly within ARI and Dr Gray’s site, has reviewed the governance of agency and locum medical staff.
“We have also been focussed on areas and specialities that were reliant and dependent on employing supplementary staff to deliver core service, by re-advertising roles in different ways.
“Covid-19 has, without a doubt, had a big impact but it has not been the only factor influencing the position.”