Health board NHS Lanarkshire has been paying agency nurses up to £1500 per shift, it has emerged in a row over staffing costs.
The health board confirmed the highest amount it had paid for a single shift in 2015/2016 was £1565, one of the highest amounts reported by the three health boards which disclosed data in response to a Freedom of Information request.
The Scottish Government has been criticised for increasing its use of bank and agency nurses, as well as high levels of vacancies with hundreds of roles lying vacant for considerable amounts of time.
Last year NHS Scotland’s health boards spent £158 million paying for bank and agency nurses to cover shifts.
Central Scotland MSP Margaret Mitchell said:” I am disappointed that NHS Lanarkshire has had to spend so much money for agency nurses in the face of cuts thanks to the SNP in other areas of our NHS services.
“It is a waste of taxpayers’ money to pay so much for one shift when the Scottish Government could decrease this bill considerably.
“The lack of workforce planning and the failure of the SNP government to train enough nurses has increasingly placed a burden upon hospitals to become dependent on bank and agency staff.
“It is also hugely unfair for staff nurses who could only dream of such remuneration.”
Irene Barkby, NHS Lanarkshire executive director of nursing, midwifery and allied health professions, said: “We have a duty to provide safe, high-quality and timely care to our patients. We only use agency staff when there is an absolute clinical need as it is important these positions are filled to safeguard patient care. This is usually a last resort which is considered after all other options, including offering overtime and extra hours to bank staff, cannot provide the staffing levels required.
“Agency nurses are sought from national contracted agencies to provide support to our staff and can be utilised to cover sickness absence, and on occasion other types of unplanned absence, to ensure continuity of care and services.”
Health secretary Shona Robison said that agency bills have dropped by 11 per cent in the last decade. She added that only 0.4% of overall staffing numbers are agency nurses.
The NHS has also launched a new initiative with NHS National Services Scotland to reduce agency costs. Scotland has over 43,000 qualified nurses.