A WHISTLEBLOWING medic has called on the public spending watchdog to investigate why NHS Ayrshire and Arran (NHS A&A) has spent £3 million in two years on locum stroke doctors.

The spend includes a single locum consultant earning £500,000 to £550,000 per year – five times a typical consultant’s salary, our sister paper the Glasgow Herald reported this week.

Data obtained under freedom of information laws by stroke specialist Dr Sukhomoy Das shows that the locum cost for NHS Ayrshire’s elderly medicine and stroke service over the past two years is far higher than any other health board, at £2.96m.

Elsewhere, it ranges from zero at NHS Fife and Highland, to £1.17m at Lanarkshire, £887,000 at NHS Grampian, and £774,000 at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

Dr Das, who worked at NHS A&A from 2000 to 2009, has previously spoken about being bullied out of his job after raising safety concerns with management about agency locums who, he said, lacked stroke training and were misdiagnosing patients.

The health board insist his concerns were probed at the time and no issues were found. However, Dr Das was the only whistleblower from Scotland invited to give evidence to England’s Francis Inquiry, which investigated how a culture of NHS cover-ups can cost patient lives.

In 2011, he reached an out-of-court settlement for victimisation with NHSA&A after it first failed to shortlist him, then scored him adversely at interview,for a post nearly identical to the one he had previously done for nine years. The post was offered to a junior medic, who turned it down.

The health board was then forced to pay Dr Das a further £8,600 in 2014 when an employment tribunal ruled it had victimised him by dropping a subsequent recruitment drive for a stroke specialist after he emerged as the only shortlisted candidate.

At the time, the health board claimed it was instigating a service review with the aim of hiring consultants instead – but no permanent consultant has ever been hired.

It currently has one permanent stroke specialist acting as a consultant.

Dr Das, 54, insists that is the type of role he could fulfil to help cut locum costs. Although not a consultant, he is currently the clinical lead for rehabilitation of major trauma for the East Scotland Trauma Centre, based at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee. Until recently, he also worked as a stroke specialist at Ninewells Hospital and teaches at Dundee Medical School.

“I would expect Audit Scotland to scrutinise this,” said Dr Das. “I was a ‘troublemaker’. I challenged them before and they didn’t want me back. But by victimising me, they are really victimising the taxpayer – and patients.”

In a statement, NHS A&A said it has “taken all actions to substantively appoint to our consultant vacancies”, including international recruitment campaigns. It had hired “locum doctors with the relevant knowledge and expertise required to provide a safe and effective” service, but remains “committed to actions to reduce our expenditure on locum provision”.