THE leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats has criticised the amount of money spent on agency health staff in Wales — and been accused of having a "brass neck" in response.
Kirsty Williams (left) was referring to the £260million spent over the past five years on locum, agency or other non-permanent staff.
The amount dropped slightly last financial year.
Ms Williams said: "It is astounding that when we see wards and services closed because of a lack of staffing, last year the NHS in Wales still spent £55million on locum or agency staff when it could have been employing full-time medical staff to treat people across the country.
"Over the last five years, the NHS in Wales has spent over £58million on agency and locum nurses, midwives and health visitors.
"That money could have employed nearly 2,500 full-time nurses over the past five years. Instead, Labour and (Health Minister) Lesley Griffiths's record on the NHS is one of ward closures, cancelled operations and missed waiting times."
A spokesman for the Welsh Government said "The Welsh Lib Dem Leader has a brass neck. Her party's support for slashing the Welsh Government's budget in the name of austerity has been nothing short of a national disgrace.
"Despite Lib Dem-Tory cuts, the Welsh Labour Government's commitment to the NHS could not be clearer. We have invested more than 40 per cent of our total budget in health and social services. As a result, there are now an additional 1,800 frontline staff working in the NHS in Wales than there were in 2007, with 302 more consultants and 86 more GPs working in our local communities.
"At the same time, there are 801 fewer administration and estates staff."