The former medical director of NHS Grampian claimed that public money was being “squandered” on hiring agency staff to plug a shortage of highly skilled medics in the north east.
Dr Donnie Ross, who led the health board from 1994-2001, said there was a “chronically high” consultant vacancy rate at the board which had resulted in a “dramatic increase” in the use of agency staff.
The costs on agency staff had risen from from £4.3million in 2009 to £12.5million last year, Dr Ross said.
The retired medic said that absences were being created in part by “bizarre” management practices which had led to a number of medics being suspended from duty.
Dr Ross has been an outspoken critic of his former employers following the suspension of the Queen’s Surgeon in Scotland, Professor Zygmunt Krukowski, and his colleague, Wendy Craig.
Both have been suspended following a GMC investigation into their conduct in the general surgery department.
Figures show that NHS Grampian has referred more doctors to the GMC in the last 17 months than NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde – the largest health board in the country.
He added: “The costs of these bizarre management policies and practices in terms of temporary replacement staff and paying doctors who are being prevented for very long periods of time, is enormous.
“This is public money, raised by taxation, and it is being squandered.”
There have been long-documented difficulties in getting highly skilled medical professionals to work permanently in the north-east but progress has been made in making appointments, with 19 post filled within the past month.
Dr Ross claimed that absences had occurred because management had failed to deal wtih internal issues properly.
He said: “There is an evident trend in NHS Grampian to take disproportionate disciplinary action against doctors without first attempting – let alone exhausting – normal tried and tested management techniques.
“This has led to alienation of doctors from managers, and made the normal management processes which rely on discussion, ventilation of grievances, attentive listening, negotiation and creative imaginative thinking, all but impossible.”
Dr Ross helped set up the RING Campaign earlier this year to hold NHS Grampian to account amid ongoing controversies at the board.
NHS Grampian admitted it had been a challenging time – but that 96% of patients rated their care as good or excellent.
A spokeswoman for NHS Grampian said: “We are now making considerable progress in addressing the issues raised – something which was positively acknowledged by the Cabinet Secretary during her annual review visit last week.
“What has never been in doubt is the high standard of patient care or the commitment and dedication of our hard working staff. The excellent work undertaken to service the healthcare needs of Grampian and beyond every single day by our thousands of staff from across all disciplines, is something of which we are fiercely proud. Indeed, the latest feedback shows that 96% of patients rated the care they received as either good or excellent.
“It is disappointing, therefore, to see their hard work and the excellent level of care they provide under NHS Grampian undermined by a pressure group.”