THE number of NHS staff off work with stress has soared in the last three years, according to official figures collated by Scottish Labour.

Between 2015/16 and 2017/18, heath boards reported almost 1m work days were lost due to absences for stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health issues.

The number of days lost to rose 17.6%, from around 355,200 to 417,700 over the period.

The figures emerged as a leading economist warned the SNP Government is planning to spend too little and save too much on health and social care over the next five years.

Dr John McLaren, of Scottish Trends, said official figures suggested spending rises would be barely half those in England, while efficiency savings would be 60% higher.

Labour said the lost sick days would add to the pressure on already overworked NHS staff.

Labour health spokesperson Monica Lennon MSP said: “Stress-related absences in our NHS have rocketed in recent yearst. It’s obvious that people working in the NHS are being pushed to the limit, often delivering high levels of care to the detriment of their own health and wellbeing.

“The SNP has created a staffing crisis in our health service, with more than 3,000 nursing and midwifery posts lying unfilled. A crisis worsened by Nicola Sturgeon’s decision to cut the number of training posts whilst she was Health Secretary.”

The government said overall NHS staffing levels had increased by 12,000 under the SNP, while sickness absence rates had stayed stable, and were slightly lower now than in 2007.

A spokesperson for Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: “We take the welfare of hardworking NHS staff very seriously, and every health board is required to have robust policies in place when it comes to the mental health and wellbeing of employees.“We will take absolutely no lectures from Labour when it comes to staffing. It is the SNP which has delivered record high NHS staff numbers, up by more than 12,000 on the number inherited from Labour.”

In his paper, Dr McLaren compared the Scottish Government’s recent medium term financial plans for health and social care with an independent analysis of health and care spending projections for England.

He said there was confusion over the Scottish plans, but they appeared to “diverge significantly” from south of the border, falling around £400m a year short by comparison.

He said the best like-for-like comparison was Scottish health and social care spending rising 3.5% a year in cash terms for five years, compared to an estimated 6.7% in England.

“Such a discrepancy seems unsustainable,” he said.

He said “over-optimistic” SNP plans assumed efficiency savings of 1.3% a year, against 0.8% in England.