NHS Lothian is facing a potential compensation bill of up to £7 million thanks to a flood of unresolved equal pay claims.
Opposition parties labelled the situation as a disgrace as figures obtained through Freedom of Information were released today revealing 1632 claims remained outstanding for the Lothians.
Only 18 cases have been resolved by the health board in the past four years. A total of 9978 equal pay claims remain unresolved across Scotland.
The Scottish Conservatives said claims had so far cost the NHS in Scotland £586,475, making the average payout about £4100.
That trend would leave NHS Lothian facing a “financial time bomb” of about £6.69m if each of the outstanding claims had to be settled.
Labour health spokesperson Jackie Baillie, pictured, has demanded assurances from Health Secretary Alex Neil that patient care would not suffer as a result of mass payouts.
She said: “It is a disgrace that in 21st century Scotland, women still are having to fight to achieve equal pay in the public sector. What is also more worrying is the financial time bomb that these claims pose.
“Alex Neil [Health Secretary] needs to intervene and assure patients that patient care won’t suffer when the bills come in. The fact that the Scottish Government won’t also intervene to bring pay equality for Scottish women is also a disgrace.”
Only NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde  and NHS Ayrshire and Arran  had more claims than the Lothians. An NHS spokeswoman said all of the claims had been made by non-medical staff, including cleaners, clerical employees and porters.
Scottish Conservative local government spokeswoman Margaret Mitchell said the situation was not sustainable, adding: “How can NHS boards be expected to plan for the future with this bill of millions of pounds hanging over them?
“Instead of spending millions kicking this into the long grass, NHS boards – with the help of the Scottish Government – should be facing up to these claims.”
Ian Reid, chairman of the NHS Scotland Equal Pay Reference Group, refuted allegations that all NHS boards “have still to settle” such claims.
He said: “Whilst it is correct that a large number of equal pay claims are outstanding they are unlikely to succeed and to suggest that they all require to be settled is misleading.
“It is further incorrect to suggest that there has been a delay by NHS Scotland in dealing with any stage of the tribunal process.
“The claimant is required to identify a male comparator and a contract term showing that the male was paid more on the basis of gender. To date none of the claimants have done this.”