A WEST FIFE MSP has said “moonlighting” cannot continue as it was revealed NHS Fife spent more than £8.3million employing agency staff in the Kingdom’s hospitals last year.

The figure, revealed under Freedom of Information, showed that 77 per cent of the amount – or nearly £6.5m – went towards medical and dental locums, with a further £1.4m towards nursing and healthcare assistants.

Last month, the Press told you that of 282 full-time NHS Fife posts, 53 are unfilled, despite the health board’s recruitment efforts. We’ve also previously told you how the health board has flown in consultants from Europe and as far as the Middle East to plug gaps within the service.

Cowdenbeath MSP Alex Rowley (pic) has voiced his concerns over the knock-on effect the shortage will have to patient care and this week again called on the Scottish Government to intervene.

He told the Press, “What it highlights is the actual costs of not being able to recruit consultants.

“People are not getting the care and support from consultants that they should be getting.

“I’m not being disrespectful to the consultants – they can be the best going – but you can’t expect the same level of service as they’re just being brought in for the weekend.

“They have no relationship with the patient – people are often very, very ill and need to have a consultant who knows their case and can give them the right support.

“That raises major concerns. You’re just being fitted in at the weekend – people are getting called and told they can have the appointment, depending who they can fly in.

“Consultants working one job all week, then working another job in Fife at the weekend. In any other job that would be described as moonlighting.

“We cannot continue the way we’re going. The cost is one thing but more crucially, patients in Fife are not getting the quality of care they’re supposed to get.” Mr Rowley is also pushing Health Secretary Shona Robison to look at creating teaching status for Fife hospitals in partnership with the University of St Andrews, as an option for addressing the shortage.

He explained, “St Andrews has a medical school but they’re not linked to any hospitals.

“Teaching hospital status would mean that you have consultants, and doctors training to be consultants, working where they are based.

“Edinburgh and Glasgow do not have the same problem we do in recruiting consultants and that’s one area I’m pushing for with the Scottish Government.” NHS Fife assured that it was “committed to providing patients with the best possible standard of care” and had filled a number of posts recently.

Director of acute services Scott McLean said, “In common with many other boards, NHS Fife has faced challenges in recruiting to consultant posts, however, as a result of our recent targeted recruitment campaign, 18 new consultants have taken up post in Fife since October of last year.

“In addition, a further 22 permanent consultants have also been appointed and will commence employment with us in the coming weeks and months.

“Whilst these appointments have significantly reduced the number of vacant consultant posts, we acknowledge that there is a great deal of work still to be done.

“NHS Fife continues to work proactively to recruit for the remaining posts, with existing vacancies covered by other means in order to ensure that we continue to maintain staffing levels which are safe and appropriate.”