Concerns have been raised about nursing vacancies in Fife after new figures revealed the number has doubled since last September.
Murdo Fraser, Mid-Scotland and Fife MSP and Ellen Hudson, Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Scotland associate director have voiced their worries about the dramatic rise.
And now Mr Fraser has urged NHS Fife to do more to recruit the right levels of clinical staff to avoid paying for expensive agency staff.
The Conservative MSP said the figures show there are now 133.7 vacant nursing posts compared to 60.2 last year at this time - an increase of 122 per cent.
However, Helen Paterson, executive director of nursing at NHS Fife, said there has been a net increase in the number of nurses employed by NHS Fife over the last 12 months.
Ms Paterson went on to say that in the one-year period highlighted by Mr Fraser, there has been an increase of 35 registered nurses.
But Mr Fraser said: “It is concerning to see such a dramatic rise in nursing vacancies in Fife in the past year and patients throughout the region will be concerned at the prospect of receiving poorer care.
“Employing expensive agency nurses to cover demand is a short-term fix that ultimately ends up costing the health board more and NHS Fife must look to recruit nurses on a permanent basis.”
Ellen Hudson said: “These figures are deeply worrying.
‘‘We know the Government is trying to address the shortage of nurses, but we still have a large gap between the number of nursing staff health boards need to meet the rising demands on our health service and the nurses available to fill these posts.”
Ms Paterson responded by saying: “To take the last 12 months as a direct comparison does not take into consideration the significant re-evaluation that has been undertaken across the health board this year as to the size of our workforce.
‘‘Importantly, this review identified an increase in our staffing requirements and we are proactively recruiting to all vacancies with this revised model in mind.
“Over the last year, NHS Fife has significantly reduced its agency staffing spend as we continue to utilise our existing nurse bank in increasingly efficient ways.”