SCOTLAND’S NHS is deteriorating so badly some frontline services are at risk of “disappearing altogether”, a leading doctor has said.

Dr Robin Northcote, a consultant cardiologist, warned swift action was needed to turn around hospital performances.

The former clinical director in medicine at the Victoria Infirmary in Glasgow believed problems relating to high quality and timely care were due to staff recruitment difficulties which he blamed on the Scottish Government’s remuneration policy for doctors and health workers.

“We are unable to attract high quality candidates from throughout the UK as a result of Scottish Government policy in relation to remuneration and working conditions,” he said.

“This pattern is slowly eroding the calibre of the workforce as well as the numbers available to provide the service.”

He added: “It is only a matter of time before every health board in the land is so afflicted as services deteriorate and, in some areas, it is inevitable that the day will come when some services will disappear altogether. This is not scaremongering. This is what is happening.”

Mr Northcote spoke out weeks after an analysis found schools and hospitals in Scotland have suffered from the spending choices made by the Scottish Government over the past ten years.

Jim Gallagher, an expert at Nuffield College, Oxford, reported that spending on schools and health were two of the public sector areas to have lost out most since the SNP came to power a decade ago.

Professor Gallagher’s research suggested that had spending on health risen at the same level as the Scottish block grant for the past ten years there would be £1 billion more in the Scottish NHS today than there is.

The health service would have benefited by an extra £750 million if the Scottish Government had just passed on all the so-called "Barnett consequentials" of health spending from the UK government, he claimed, adding that SNP ministers chose not to spend the money in this way.

Spending on schools had also slipped so much in the past decade that England, which used to spend considerably less per pupil than Scotland, had now almost caught up.

It also emerged this month that Scottish patients will travel hundreds of miles to England for heart surgery because of staffing problems in the NHS.

Health service bosses in Grampian struck a deal with an English hospital because of a 'backlog' of patients waiting for vital operations.

The crisis has emerged in NHS Grampian, which plans to send patients to the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle, 250 miles from Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, where heart surgery is usually carried out.

At the end of June this year, 8.5 per cent of consultant jobs in Scotland were vacant, according to official data released, equating to 476 full-time vacancies. It is only the second time in at least ten years that the proportion of consultant posts lying empty has exceeded 8 per cent and the number of posts left unfilled for six months or more is higher than before. At the end of June, 228 posts had sat vacant for more than six months, an increase of 40 in a year.

Mr Northcote said more money was needed to invest in the service in order to recruit and retain trained staff.

He said Scotland needed to be more competitive with other parts of the UK in order to attract staff.

“We need to make working in Scotland more attractive than elsewhere, and this includes incentives and the work/life balance,” he said.

“Firstly, the pay cap for NHS workers, and this includes clinical staff, should be lifted.

“The pay structure for senior clinical staff must be restored to equity with the other home countries.

“Further, we must seek to renegotiate the Consultant Contract, which is not fit for purpose.”

He said the medical profession, through the Royal Colleges and other professional organisations wer ready to assist ministers to find solutions to the situation.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “There are now over 11,800 more whole time equivalent staff working in our NHS, with more consultants, nurses and midwives delivering care for the people of Scotland. We are working with the NHS to address recruitment and retention challenges to make health and social care careers more attractive.

“We were the first government in the UK to have committed to lifting the 1% pay cap for public sector workers in Scotland, a vital move if we want to continue to be attractive and recruit staff for our NHS and public services.

“And we’re committed to ensuring the necessary reforms in education, health and justice are put in place, backed by record investment in our health service. In 2017-18 the Scottish Government is pledging an additional £327 million to NHS boards, an important step towards increasing the NHS revenue budget by £2 billion by the end of this parliament.”

“We will also invest an additional £750 million in this Parliament to raise educational standards for all and close the attainment gap.”