NHS Highland has spent more than £20 million on locums, bank and agency staff in the last financial year.
The new figures, obtained by Highlands MSP Edward Mountain, prompted calls for the Scottish Government to help reduce the health board’s reliance on temporary staff.
Figures for financial year 2019/20 reveal the board spent £1,823,976 on payroll locums so far and £8,839,405 on agency locums. A further £9,117,823 was spent on bank and relief staff and £2,555,851 on agency staff.
Yesterday Mr Mountain said ministers had to come up with a plan to staff NHS Highland’s new £36m elective centre in Inverness.
Mr Mountain challenged Health Secretary Jeane Freeman on the issue in parliament, and said: “We know that the construction of the new elective care centre will be delayed until early next year and latest figures show that NHS Highland are spending over £20 million a year on bank, relief and agency staff payrolls.
“Is the cabinet secretary sure she will be able to fully staff the elective care centre when it is finally finished without increasing these costs?”
Ms Freeman said NHS Highland was focusing on reducing its cost and reliance on locums, an was holding weekly control meetings and trying to recruit for permanent posts.
She said the number of medical and dental staff in NHS Highland had increased by 55.2% between 2006 and 2019.
Ms Freeman said the board was also trying to encourage doctors to come to the Highlands by offering flexible working and alternative roles, while a medical recruitment agency has been enlisted to attract staff from abroad.
She stressed agency use of nursing and midwifery staff had decreased and its vacancy rate had fallen.
Afterwards, a NHS Highland spokesman said: “Staff shortages and reliance on locums is a national issue which is not specific to NHS Highland. The board has implemented a number of initiatives to address this including a weekly control meeting and an ongoing cost improvement programme.
“NHS Highland is also developing plans to accelerate initiatives to attract permanent staff, make best use of our existing staff by enabling them to use their skills to best effect, and ensure good value for money if there is a need for locum staff to ensure continuity of clinical care.”