THE heads of one of Scotland’s most financially inept health boards have been awarded bonuses.

Senior managers at NHS Tayside pocketed the rises after getting positive grades for their performance - despite the organisation relying on bail-outs from the taxpayer.

A damning report by Audit Scotland this month laid bare the long-term financial challenges facing NHS Tayside, which serves nearly 400,000 people.

A £11.6m potential deficit in 2016/17 has been projected, which could increase if planned savings are not met.

The report also confirmed that the board had received £24.3m in support from the Scottish Government over the last four years to plug financial black holes.

In 2015/16, NHS Tayside was given £5million to cover pressures such as staffing and prescribing costs, but in the same year previous bailout money was not repaid.

It added: "Money from one-off sales of property is not a sustainable way to help manage the board's finances."

However, despite the wayward financial mismanagement, senior NHS Tayside staff have still enjoyed performance-related "progression" increases.

The performance of executive and senior managers across the NHS is judged according to five categories: unacceptable; incomplete; fully acceptable; superior; and outstanding.

An unacceptable rating merits no increase, but the other categories currently trigger rises of between 1% and 3%. The regime applies to staff earning between £44,810 and £179,108.

Figures covering two bailout years - 2013/14 and 2014/15 - reveal no senior managers were given an “unacceptable” rating.

The number of bosses judged to have an “incomplete” performance stood at less than five, while 111 individuals were deemed “fully acceptable”.

Another 32 senior staff fell in the “superior” bracket, but nobody was “outstanding”.

Labour MSP Jenny Marra, the convener of the Parliament’s Public Audit committee, said: “I think frontline staff and patients would question the fairness of NHS managers in Tayside receiving performance bonus payments when the finances of the health board are in such disarray.

“NHS Tayside will have to make nearly £60m of cuts this year, they are running a deficit of £11m and will have to go back to the Scottish Government for the fourth year running to ask for a loan. Far too much money is being spent on agency nurses and prescribing. With things in this situation it is very difficult to see why senior managers deserve additional payment awards.”

Tory MSP Donald Cameron said: “It is staggering that NHS Tayside have chosen to pay out these bonuses given the current financial problems they’re facing.

“Having already gone millions of pounds over budget they need to be spending as sensibly as possible, not throwing away more funds on unnecessary bonuses.

“Most people wouldn’t expect to be given a bonus for simply doing an ‘acceptable’ job, and NHS Tayside need to urgently reconsider whether these payments are appropriate.”

An NHS Tayside spokesperson said: "All performance review arrangements are undertaken in line with instructions issued through Scottish Government Circulars, including national scrutiny of any recommendations made by Health Boards with regard to individual performance assessments."