Glasgow’s NHS board has been slammed after new figures reveal it paid an “eye-watering” £4m in bonuses to doctors last year.

Critics say the money should have been spent on frontline NHS services instead.

A total of 82 consultants received a ‘distinction award’ of up to £75,000 per year in addition to their salary from Glasgow NHS last year.

The payments are intended to help the NHS encourage top doctors to work in the public sector.

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But critics say that it takes money from lifesaving medicines and treatments instead.

One chemical pathology consultant at Glasgow Royal Infirmary has been receiving an annual bonus for the last 18 years.

Another doctor at Gartnavel Royal Hospital has been receiving bonuses since 2002 and now tops up his salary with an extra £75,000.

Last year, Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s bonus bill was the highest in Scotland, with £3,931,000 handed to consultants.

It made up one third of the total £11m national spend on bonuses.

Although distinction awards have existed since the creation of the NHS, the budget for bonuses was frozen in 2010 by the Scottish government.

Consultants who received bonuses before 2010 have been able to renew them every five years since.

The figures were revealed in response to a written question in parliament from David Stewart, a Labour MSP for Highlands and Islands.

Glasgow MSP Annie Wells, told The Evening Times paying bonuses to doctors who were already on the scheme was a “loophole” exploited by the SNP.

She said: “We have heard for a number of years how the SNP Government are going to crack down on this bonus scheme, but the reality is that many staff, who already enjoy a healthy wage, are enjoying further bonuses.

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“While the scheme may have been frozen, the five year roll over is a major loophole that allows more money to be paid out, rather than being invested in vital frontline NHS services.

“With NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde facing many challenges when it comes to waiting times, out of hours GP care and staff recruitment, patients will be astonished that almost £4 million was paid out last year in bonuses.

Nicola Sturgeon made promises on this scheme back when she was Health Secretary in 2010 but the country’s largest health board are still in a position to pay out eye watering sums, which will anger local people.”

Last night, a government spokesman denied that the payments were bonuses and insisted the freeze had been effective in bringing down the cost of the scheme.

He said: “NHS Scotland Consultants do not receive any bonuses. Distinction Awards are contractual and since 2010, when the scheme was frozen, no new awards have been made and no one has progressed through the scheme in Scotland,” he said.

“The only consultants still receiving an award are those who were successful prior to the freeze being imposed.

“This means that the number of award holders has reduced year on year. In September 2009 there were 578 Award holders representing 12% of consultants.

“In September 2018 this number has fallen to 226 representing 3.9 % of consultants - 77 of whom are in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, which employs the greatest number of consultants.”