THE Scottish NHS has spent at least £9m on hotels and travel for patients in the past three years – including at least £190 a night on a four star London establishment.
The vast majority of the cash – almost £8m – was spent by NHS Highland, which is forecasting an overspend this year of £9.8m.
One board – NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde – spent money on hotel stays in its own area.
And NHS Fife put up patients at a hotel in London which charges up to £270 a night while apologising for not having a ramp for wheelchair users.
Two boards claimed it was cheaper to put some patients up in hotels than try to find beds in NHS wards.
But critics said the spending on hotel rooms was “shocking” and “extravagant.”
All of Scotland’s 13 NHS Boards were asked under the Freedom of Information Act to provide details of spending on hotels and related costs.
NHS Highland has spent £7.963m on hotels and travel for their patients in the past three years while forecasting an overspend of £7.7m for Raigmore Hospital, Inverness.
NHS Lothian paid out £623,938 on hotels while NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde spent £417,007.
Glasgow revealed it put up 1,964 patients giving an average spend of £211 per patient on hotel rooms and travel.
The board uses hotels including Glasgow Pond Hotel and the Victorian House Hotel. They also put patients up in the Holiday Inn and Ramada at Glasgow Airport.
NHS Fife spent a total of £12,266 including nights at the Hotel Russell, London, described as a four star “iconic luxury hotel” in the centre of the city..
The Victorian styled hotel boasts luxurious rooms with a marble entrance and grand staircase in the the lobby.
But the hotel – where prices range from £190 to £270 – apologises to guest on their website as they do not have a ramp for disabled guests. A nights stay in the hotel starts at £190 a night.
NHS Shetland revealed that they had spent £90,000 since 2010 putting patients up in hotels, while NHS Ayrshire and Arran said that they had spent £10,320.
NHS Tayside said that they had spent £5360, and NHS Grampian revealed that they spent a total of £2067.
Margaret Watt, chairwoman of the Scottish Patients Association, said: “I think it’s shocking. We have seen the shortfalls in the last 12 months that prove we are short of staff and beds, the money would be better spent making sure patients can stay in hospital.”
“Can you imagine the amount of staff and beds we could get for £9m. The NHS could employ hundreds of staff and get a lot of beds for wards.”
Eben Wilson, of Taxpayer Scotland, said: “While there may be isolated cases where hotel stays are valuable for rapid clinical outcomes, the amount of money being spent smacks of inefficient scheduling.
“Health service administrators need to redouble their efforts to avoid these expenses which inevitably reduce resources for other clinical needs at least as important.”
Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said that paying to put patients up in hotels in their own areas was “incredible”.
“Examples of this will have to be very compelling to justify the expense.
“Health boards also risk undermining savings being made elsewhere by being unnecessarily extravagant in paying for top-of-the-range hotels when cheaper alternatives are surely available.”
A spokesman for NHS Highland said they had a wide geographic spread with areas of sparse population and only acute district hospital.
“Furthermore, with a number of islands in NHS Highland’s area, many of the journeys may include a flight or ferry,” said the spokesman.
“Providing accommodation in hotels or guest houses costs a fraction of what it would cost to accommodate these patients in hospital,” he added.
A spokeswoman for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said they had a population of 1.2million and provide “specialist regional services to more than half the country’s population”.
“The alternative to the hotel accommodation is a hospital stay which has much higher costs and also uses beds which could be used for people who clinically need them,” he said.
NHS Borders, NHS Dumfries and Galloway, NHS Forth Valley, NHS Lanarkshire, NHS Orkney and NHS Western Isles all said they could not provide the information – at both initial and appeal stages of the request.