NHS chiefs have been condemned for paying an agency doctor more than £19,000 for a week’s work – the equivalent of £1m a year.
The consultant psychiatrist earned an astonishing £19,305.22 for 40 hours on duty plus the rest of the week on call.
The figures mean Western Isles NHS Board paid the unnamed medic £483 per hour based on the 40 hours definitely worked.
The agency doctor’s weekly pay cheque is almost £4,000 more than the £15,363 starting pay a nursing auxillary can expect to earn for a whole year.
Campaign groups for patients and taxpayers described the bill as “extortionate”. The Scottish Tories accused the SNP government of breaking its repeated promises to crack down on agency spending.
The spending was revealed in a Freedom of Information request by Western Isles NHS Board.
Officials said the agency doctor, who specialises in old age psychiatry, was on call for the remaining 128 hours of the week but it is not known if he or she was actually called out.
The board admitted its spending on temporary consultants has rocketed from £452,000 in 2012 to £1.269m last year.
At the same time the number of consultants employed dropped from 43 to 36 over the same period.
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patient’s Association, said: “I can’t see how any trust board can pay that much money for one worker in a week, and assure the taxpayer that it’s value for money.
“Agency workers should only be used in an emergency, and not on a routine basis. There should be more full-time employed staff and constant recruitment drives to prevent this from happening.
“Many agency staff are drafted in at the last minute and could pose a risk to patients who will all have their individual routines.
“The important thing for the boards to do is to plan ahead to stop these extortionate costs from reoccurring.”
Eben Wilson, the director of TaxPayer Scotland, said: “Far too often taxpayers are hearing about these huge agency costs by the NHS.
“We are hugely concerned that our money is being diverted like this with little thought about the expense and what that money might have been used for instead.
“NHS managers really must get on top of their staff planning; there is simply no excuse for such an inefficient use of public money. Our hard earned taxes need to be stewarded with the utmost rigour”.
Over the past year, use of agency staff has increased by over 50% across Scotland. They provided cover for the equivalent of 191 full-time staff at a cost of £16m.
Recent figures show that staff sickness and vacancy rates are increasing, meaning that more temporary staff have to be drafted in to fill in the space.
Scottish conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: “Despite constant promises from SNP ministers, Scotland’s NHS continues to have to fall back on expensive agency staff – locum doctors and nurses – just to keep going.
“In some areas vacancies remain unfilled for months on end.
“However much they might shout that all is well the First Minister and her Health Secretary need to stop making vacuous promises and start delivering results.”
A spokeswoman for the NHS Western Isles said: “When a gap in service arises unexpectedly, e.g. as a result of sickness absence, we have to put cover in place urgently.
“This can mean that the cost is high, but there is no other option if we are to maintain safe levels of medical cover. This is not an experience peculiar to the Western Isles.
“Although we cannot comment on specific cases, NHS Western Isles’ policy is that agency staff are only used when we have exhausted all other means of obtaining staff to maintain a safe service.
“Although there is a framework contract in place in Scotland for agencies providing locum cover, if they cannot accommodate our request, then we have to engage with agencies outwith the framework and we do not have control over their charges.
“Medical cover is required 24/7 and therefore staff are required not only during normal working hours but must also be available to be called upon out of hours in an emergency situation, and we have to pay an availability allowance for this whether or not staff are called out.”