ONLY NHS Tayside has dipped into charity funds to shore up ailing finances, it has emerged.

Two others - NHS Highland and NHS Ayrshire and Arran - said they had transferred from their endowment funds into their general expenditure pots occasionally since 2012, but stressed that the money had been properly spent. Every other health board in Scotland said they had never done so.

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It comes after the chief executive and chairman of NHS Tayside were forced to step down after the Herald revealed that £2.7 had been taken from its charity pot in 2013/14 to cover routine costs after the health board ran out of money. The bulk of it - £2.3m - was spent retrospectively to fund new IT that should have been paid for from core NHS spending.

Yesterday, trustees of NHS Tayside endowment fund met to review that decision. In a statement, they said the review's conclusions will "form the basis of a response" to be sent at the end of this week to the Scottish charities regulator, OSCR, which is conducting its own inquiry into how NHs Tayside has managed the fund, which is made up of public donations and bequests to the NHS.

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Last week, Health Secretary Shona Robison also instructed NHS Scotland's chief executive Paul Gray to write to all health boards in the wake of the scandal to seek assurances that endowment monies were being spent appropriately.

Bob Brown, assistant finance director NHS Ayrshire and Arran, said it only used its charity fund to "provide extra comforts for patients over and above that provided by Ayrshire and Arran NHS Board".

In 2012, Mr Brown said the health board had transferred £800,000 from the exchequer - core NHS funding - into its endowment fund to support research into hospital infections. He added that some of this funding was subsequently transferred back into the exchequer from the charity fund when it was no longer required.

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Mr Brown said: "This money was for the specific purpose of supporting HAI research within the Institute of Healthcare Associated Infection. In 2017 as part of a regular review of Charity Funds, the trustees agreed to return a balance of £184,000 to the exchequer as the fund was no longer required for its specified purpose."

A spokeswoman for NHS Highland said they did transfer cash from the endowment fund into the exchequer, but insisted that it was only ever done to support charitable projects and spent according to the wishes of donors.

In one example, the spokeswoman said around £1m raised through the Archie Foundation for the redevelopment of the children's ward at Raigmore hospital was used as a contribution towards the cost of the overall project.

She said: "This was entirely in line with what the Archie Foundation expected and in line with the constitution and financial procedures of the endowment fund."

However, NHS sources from various regions have told the Herald they have occasionally felt uncomfortable about how charity cash is spent, for example funding hotels for staff attending conferences or training courses.

It has also emerged that NHS Tayside gave more than £1000 in charity cash to a community biking project, Mike’s Bikes, run by a former drug addict. The organiser, Mike Rennie, subsequently vanished with no record of how the money was used.

Scottish Labour’s health spokesperson Anas Sarwar MSP said: “Labour has repeatedly called for an immediate and swift national investigation to ensure such behaviour is not going on elsewhere.

"Clearly there is a need for great transparency, scrutiny and accountability not just at NHS Tayside, but health boards across the country."

Scottish Conservative public health spokeswoman Annie Wells said: “Given the fiasco in Tayside over the use of charitable donations, this issue is certainly worth closer scrutiny.

“It’s pretty clear that health boards have to be extremely responsible and transparent when using these donations left in goodwill.

“If they’re not, people will lose confidence and will take their cash elsewhere in future.”