A Scottish health board has rejected claims by Labour that “cuts” to cleaning jobs are putting patients’ health at risk.

Greater Glasgow and Clyde was among four NHS boards who recorded a drop in posts over the past year.

But the body insisted the temporary measure was a “tactical” decision to hold jobs open as part of a shake-up and that outside agency staff filled the gaps.

Labour obtained figures under freedom of information legislation showing reductions of 65 posts at Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 20 at Dumfries and Galloway, nine at Fife and eight at Forth Valley.

Last year Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon pledged to recruit an extra 600 cleaners across the country.

Labour health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said “there is no doubt” that cuts lead to patients getting ill.

Her warning comes days after official figures showed a longer-term increase of about 1,000 posts under the SNP and a reduction in deaths from Clostridium difficile (C Diff) and MRSA.

Ms Baillie said: “The SNP Government is forcing health boards across Scotland to make savings in frontline services, but hospital cleaning must be protected if we are to stand a chance of beating superbugs like C difficile and MRSA.

“Nicola Sturgeon stood up at the SNP conference in Glasgow and promised hundreds more hospital cleaners. Instead, what we are seeing is cutbacks in hospital cleaning.

“There is no doubt that when NHS boards cuts cleaning then infection rates go up and patients get ill.”

An NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (GGC) statement said: “It is completely untrue and misleading to suggest that NHS GGC has decreased its domestic cleaning operations across its hospitals.”

The board said time spent on cleaning had not been cut back.

“The cleaning regimes in our hospitals were unaffected by this tactical approach to keep the vacancies open for the redeployed staff because we offered overtime to our domestic staff and topped that up with temporary agency staff support,” the board added.