A trade union has warned against the use of private sector staff for the vaccination programme in Scotland.

Unison head of health Willie Duffy wrote in a letter to Health Secretary Jeane Freeman that the private sector should only be used as a last resort.

Mr Duffy said some health boards have been using private contractors instead of their own NHS bank staff.

READ MORE: Covid Scotland: Latest vaccination data shows quarter of population has had jab

He said: “Many retired staff have also returned to practice to undertake vaccinator roles. Most of these people have undertaken the significant training package in their own time.

“Initially staff were getting shifts, however in some health boards with the introduction of independent contractors at a very highly inflated cost, both these staff and directly employed and bank staff are now not getting shifts.

“Not only is this at a huge cost, it is also causing major issues with our members and we would request that you instruct health boards only to use independent contractors as a last resort rather than offering them work ahead of their own and bank staff.”

According to the union, private contractors receive £231 for a three and a half hour shift, while bank staff or full-time workers cost just £56.63.

Mr Duffy told Ms Freeman: “Although Scottish Government have maintained they are following the JCVI advice on prioritisation, variations have already been agreed ie NHS24.

“There are also other staff groups, eg laundry staff, who have not been prioritised, however if there was a Covid outbreak in laundries then that would have huge problems for NHS Scotland,” Mr Duffy told Ms Freeman.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The establishment of a mass Covid-19 vaccination programme is a huge undertaking, and one that has required us to mobilise and have available a large, capable and diverse workforce as quickly as possible to ensure that the 1,100 vaccinations sites we have in Scotland can operate at capacity, many seven days a week.

“It remains vital that as many people as possible are available to staff these centres.

“All staff working on the programme are paid in accordance with nationally set terms and conditions and are working to agreed job roles, which come with specified rates of pay.”