VACANCIES for hospital consultants are increasing in Scotland with the number of posts empty for more than six months up 45 per cent since the autumn.

Last spring there were 324 gaps for top doctors in the health service - the highest figure in records dating back 10 years.

New data, showing the position at the end of 2014 has revealed an increase to 395 vacancies. Of these 163 have been unfilled for six months or more, up on 113 last September.

The Scottish Government announced the total number of people working for the NHS is at record levels reaching the equivalent 137,511.9 full time staff - an increase of 1.8 per cent in a year - on the back of the statistical bulletin.

Last year there was an increase in the number of nursing and midwifery posts to 1126. However, the vacancy rate also increased from 2.5 per cent to 3.4 per cent.

Health Secretary Shona Robison said: "This government is committed to protecting our NHS workforce - ensuring we have appropriate levels of staff to deliver the right care, in the right place, at the right time.

"Our NHS staff work incredibly hard to deliver excellent patient care day-in and day-out, and we are determined to give these staff the support they need to meet the increasing demands on our health service.

"That is why it's welcome to see a further increase in the NHS workforce, with over 10,000 more staff under this government and nearly 2,500 WTE (whole time equivalent) extra members of staff in the last year alone.

"This, coupled with our decision to increase the health budget next year to a record £12 billion, demonstrates this government's commitment to protecting frontline NHS services."