SCOTLAND’s largest NHS board spent more than £20 million on private health care last year.

While the overall amount boards spent using private and independent health care providers fell to £72m in 2016/17, the bill for Greater Glasgow and Clyde hit £20.4m.

Both NHS Lanarkshire and NHS Lothian spent more than £9m, while at NHS Tayside the costs amounted to over £8.8m, figures from the Scottish Government showed.

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NHS Shetland had the lowest spending on private health care at £153,000.

The spending details were revealed by Health Secretary Shona Robison in response to a parliamentary question from the Scottish Conservatives.

Ms Robison said: “NHS territorial boards continue to make limited use of the independent and private sector for health care services. Total spend decreased from £78.5m in 2015/16 to £72m in 2016/17.”

In government the SNP has been critical of the use of private companies in the NHS.

Tory health spokesman Miles Briggs said: “Listening to the SNP you would think private healthcare was an evil that isn’t welcome in Scotland.

“Yet now we see it spends millions every month using it to help out the NHS.”

Mr Briggs said the Conservatives believed that independent providers could play a “vital role in reducing waiting lists, and helping out an increasingly under-strain NHS”.

He added: “It’s time the SNP admitted that, rather than reverting to its dogmatic playbook.”