SURGICAL blunders have cost NHS Fife more than �22 million over the past four years, new figures have revealed.

Most of the claims were made over mistakes in diagnostics, obstetrics and women's reproductive tracts, as well as falls and medication errors.

The statistics, revealed through a Freedom of Information request, showed that Scottish NHS Trusts had paid out more than �181 million since 2008-2009.

Margaret Watt, founder of the Scotland Patients' Association, said, "It's sad when you think of what the money they paid out in compensation claims could have been spent on.

"Mistakes are being made and many of them could be avoided if there was more money for training, staff and equipment.

"Doctors are working ridiculous hours, you can't expect them to perform at their best."

NHS Fife board member John Winton defended the results and told the Press that while all compensation claims were disappointing, the figures were proportionate to the size of Fife within Scotland.

He said, "With the best will in the world there will still be made mistakes made and they will pay out if they consider they have been negligent.

"Any payout for compensation is unfortunate because it means someone has not got the treatment they should have but I don't believe that Fife is particularly bad in this case and these kind of things will happen all over Scotland.

"I have no doubts that hospitals can become very busy places at times but there are systems in place that restrict the amount of hours a doctor can work and you would need to know all the factors involved before you correlated their hours with these statistics."

NHS Fife's director of finance, Chris Bowring, echoed Mr Winton's comments.

She said, "NHS Fife is not out of line with other health boards. Fluctuations in the sums paid from year to year relate to the length of time it takes to settle individual cases."