The cost of temp midwifery staff at NHS Grampian has rocketed by 40% over the last four years, despite efforts to curb spending.
Bank workers had to be drafted in to provide 39,340 hours of obstetrics care over the 12 months to April 2018, racking up a total bill of more than £880,000 in the process.
This is 44% higher than the cost to the health board for the same services in 2013-14.
The increase was coincides with a rise in the number of hours needed as well, with 9,000 more over 2017-18 compared to that required four years ago.
Jamie Weir, chairman of NHS Grampian patient group Pact, said the health board has been left with “no option” but to use bank staff because of a nationwide shortage.
“It would of course be better for everyone if departments were fully staffed by permanent employees but often this is not possible,” he said.
“More trained personnel are required in these specialities.”
He has also called for more scrutiny of NHS Grampian’s budgets so that it can be given the funding needed to operate at full capacity.
Mr Weir added: “We have recently brought this funding anomaly to the attention of all local MSPs and a cross-party working group has been initiated to investigate and, hopefully, to try and remedy the apparent discrepancy.”
A NHS Grampian spokesman said: “Our primary aim is to keep wards working safely and effectively.
“Where gaps emerge in our core staff complement, we will look to our nurse bank.
“Staff on the bank are recruited to the same robust standards as other staff in NHS Grampian.
“Like other boards across the country, we must compete to recruit from a limited pool of qualified staff to attract them to come and live and work in the north-east.”
In recent years the health board has launched several new initiatives to recruit more members of staff.
This included the introduction of a return to practice course to allow former nurses to get back into the profession.
And last year NHS Grampian staff took the unprecedented step of travelling to Australia for a recruitment drive.
The first five of these started work last month in Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, Aberdeen Maternity Hospital and Cornhill Hospital and up to 50 more are expected to follow suit.
Figures obtained by The Press and Journal from other health boards show that Western Isles and Orkney have been able to reduce their maternity bank staff spending by 71% and 96% respectively in recent years.
Meanwhile, NHS Shetland confirmed that it has employed just one temp worker in this area over the last five years.
The member of staff was drafted in between April 17 and July 16, 2017, at a total cost of £32,212.
NHS Highland said it could not provide figures.