By Lucy Ashton

The SNP has spent a shocking £26 million within three months on agency workers to cover workforce gaps in the NHS, Scottish Labour has revealed today.

While private agencies reaped the benefits of this crisis, the NHS is suffering from at least 7,400 clinical vacancies, with worsening conditions and poor pay often cited as sparking a mass exodus from the workforce.

This crisis has only gotten worse after 16 years of SNP inaction and a lack of investment in the NHS and its workforce.

Between December 2022 and February 2023, at least 34,000 nursing shifts were covered by agency staff, including over 8,600 shifts in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and 4,865 in NHS Lothian.

Scottish Labour has repeatedly criticised the cost of the SNP’s mismanagement of Scotland’s NHS and believes that the new Health Secretary, Michael Matheson, has inherited a worsening workforce crisis which needs urgent action.

Scottish Labour Health Spokesperson Jackie Baillie, pictured above,  said: “This is the true cost of SNP failure. A decade and a half of bad choices and inaction from the SNP has caused this dismal situation – one that only got worse during Humza Yousaf’s abysmal stint as Health Secretary.

“While junior doctors are being balloted for strike action over pay, the Scottish taxpayer is being handed this eye-watering bill by private agencies to plugs the gaps in the NHS workforce.

“Our NHS will continue to face this crisis as long as staff find themselves overworked and underpaid. Conditions get more challenging every day and all this SNP government has to offer is soundbites.

“The new Health Secretary must prioritise tackling the workforce crisis if we are to truly see recovery in the NHS – we cannot continue to allow the people to Scotland to pay the price of SNP failure.

Total agency spend by health boards, 1 Dec. 2022 to 28 Feb. 2023*

Health Board Total
Ayrshire & Arran £             1,784,342.71
Borders £                 239,671.80
Dumfries & Galloway £                 306,666.79
Fife £             2,789,506.00
Forth Valley £             1,422,473.00
Grampian £             1,652,000.00
Greater Glasgow & Clyde £             1,416,432.45
Highland £             3,226,273.29
Lanarkshire £             5,796,909.37
Lothian £             6,006,753.00
Orkney £                 713,279.18
Shetland £                 699,745.00
Tayside** Not available
Western Isles £                 228,137.11
Grand Total £           26,282,189.70

* NHS Borders, Dumfries & Galloway, Forth Valley, Grampian, Greater Glasgow & Clyde, Lanarkshire, Orkney and Shetland provided data for December and January. NHS Ayrshire & Arran, Highland, Lothian and Western Isles provided data from 1 December 2022 through to February 2023.

** NHS Tayside was unable to provide data.

Total number of nursing shifts covered by agency staff, 1 Dec. 2022 to 28 Feb. 2023*

Health Board Total
Ayrshire & Arran 2115
Borders NA
Dumfries & Galloway 202
Fife NA
Forth Valley 5368
Grampian 125
Greater Glasgow & Clyde 8638
Highland 3569
Lanarkshire 4894
Lothian 4865
Orkney 1203
Shetland NA
Tayside 3354
Western Isles 50
Grand Total 34,383

* NHS Forth Valley and Orkney record the number of hours worked by agency staff. A shift has been calculated as lasting 8 hours.    Source: Scottish Labour FOI.

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