IRVINE'S MP has been earning almost £500 a day working shifts at Crosshouse Hospital.

It's been revealed that Philippa Whitford MP worked seven times for the cash-strapped hospital over the Christmas period.

The SNP's Westminister health spokesperson earned £57.60 an hour on August 20-21, the equivalent of £490 a day, as well as working on September 25 during conference season.

But Dr Whitford says it is "absolutely ludicrous" to make an issue of her work saying it had no effect on her parliamentary duties.

The Central Ayrshire MP added that she has no intention of giving up her role as a locum consultant at Crosshouse.

Dr Whitford worked two full days and three half-days at Crosshouse Hospital between December 18 and 30.

She insisted work in her constituency including holding surgeries was done in the evenings during the festive recess.

In a statement released to the Times, Dr Whitford said she was approached to work by NHS Ayrshire and Arran and says she was glad to have assisted the hospital.

She said: “It is absolutely ludicrous to try and make an issue out of this. 

Irvine Times:

"I worked five days in Crosshouse during my Christmas break to help ensure there was minimal disruption to patient clinics and planned surgery following a colleague taking ill.

"Given that I did this work in my own time, there was no effect on my constituents or my parliamentary duties.

“Since being elected, it has always been my aim to maintain my licence as a breast surgeon, which is common practice amongst medical professionals who are elected to political office, and is something the SNP is entirely comfortable with. 

Dr Whitford added: "Indeed, I believe it enhances the contribution I can make in my role as front bench health spokesperson. Whilst I hadn’t planned to work as many days as I have in such a short period, I am pleased that I was able to answer the call when it came."

“All the paid work I do outside of my Parliamentary role is registered in the MPs Register of Interests, which is available for anyone to view.

"Indeed, as I am part of the staff 'bank' which provides temporary staffing, it is more cost effective for the Health Board than having to find an external locum or agency staff.”

In order to remain fit to practise, Dr Whitford must continue to attend medical conferences and carry out clinical work as well as undergoing annual appraisals.

Ms Liz Moore, Director of Acute Services at NHS Ayrshire & Arran added: “Ms Whitford is a skilled and valued breast surgeon who remains with NHS Ayrshire & Arran on a bank contract basis. Ms Whitford was able to provide services for the benefit of patients in Ayrshire and Arran during the Christmas period due to unexpected consultant absence.”

Scottish Labour's Shadow Health Secretary, Jackie Baillie MSP, said: "The fact that Philippa Whitford, on a lucrative MP’s salary, can still make an hourly rate in our NHS nearly seven times the living wage shows the real problems in our NHS and how understaffed and under-resourced our health service is under the SNP."

CLARIFICATION: When this article was posted on January 28 online and printed in the February 3 edition of the Irvine Times, we reported that Dr Whitford has also failed to meet her party's pledge to donate a £7,000 salary increase to charity.

We are happy to clarify that Dr Whitford did not disclose any charitable donations.

She said: "I have supported several charities on a regular and long term basis, and continue to do so, but have no intention of publishing or disclosing how I spend my salary or what charitable donations I make."