Figures obtained by Scottish Labor through Freedom of Information showed that bills for the country’s 14 regional and eight specialist NHS committees had also risen by 13% in a year.
The party said the “obvious” numbers show a focus on the “wrong priorities”.
The bill for Health Department communications officers rose from £6.6million to £7.5million last year as the NHS employed more than 180 full-time staff in the field.
In addition, the Scottish Government’s Health and Welfare Department employed a further 37 WTE staff for just over £1million.
The numbers are likely underestimates as they are based on the lowest pay grades of the employees involved and some actual wages will be higher.
Two regional health boards have had communications staff bills in excess of £500,000 – NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde and NHS Lanarkshire.
Three dedicated health agencies have also surpassed half a million pounds – NHS24, Health Improvement Scotland and NHS Education for Scotland.
The State Hospital in Carstairs had a communications bill of nearly £118,000 for three staff in a 140-bed facility.
Despite having fewer communications staff in the health department than at this point last year, the payroll had increased by over £880,000 or 13%, according to FoI data.
The average wage increase for individual NHS workers, including nurses, midwives, paramedics, healthcare professionals, porters and others, was 6.5% over the last year.
Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labor Party health spokesperson, said: “It is absolutely disgraceful that over £8.5million is being poured into an army of spin doctors while our health service is devastated.”
“Emergency department wait times remain high, one in seven Scots is on an NHS waiting list and our NHS is on the front lines of a recruitment crisis. We don’t need more spin, we need proper investment in the staff that takes care of the patients.
“Of course, people need to know what’s happening in their area, what services they can expect and what urgent changes are needed in this regard, but this level of investment in so-called communications is outrageous.
“In fact, in some cases the heads of these departments make close to £100,000.
“This is unjustifiable when frontline workers are working long shifts but are struggling to get food on the table during a livelihood crisis.
“This is a government with the wrong priorities. It is time we moved away from the crackpots and invested properly in the hard working coal miners who continue to support our NHS while being abandoned by the SNP.”
Humza Yousaf, who was Health Minister for almost two years before becoming First Minister, was asked in a TV interview yesterday about the record 780,000 patients currently on waiting lists in Scotland.
He told Sky News: “The pandemic has been the biggest shock to hit our NHS in its almost 75 years of existence.”
“Within the NHS here in Scotland we have a track record of showing that Scottish emergency departments have been the best performing for well over seven years.”
“In fact, in the winter that has just ended, there was only one country in the UK that didn’t lose a single day to strikes and the NHS.”
“Of course that was Scotland when I was Health Minister.
“And when it comes to the longest waiting times in the NHS, if you look at people who have been waiting for over two years, then we’ve made drastic cuts when it comes to inpatients, outpatients are actually for those waiting for diagnostic tests await.”
“So there are challenges for the NHS, I won’t pretend otherwise, but this global pandemic has undoubtedly exacerbated those.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The allocation of resources is a matter for individual bodies, although we expect this to be done in a proportionate manner which is in the best interests of patients and staff.”
“Although this represents a tiny fraction of the £19billion spent on health and care services each year, NHS communications teams play an important role in keeping the public informed about the delivery of public health services, particularly as we move forward continue to recover from the pandemic.” ”