An independent review is to be carried out into the culture of management at a Scottish health board accused of doctoring waiting times figures to meet official targets.

The review was ordered by health secretary Nicola Sturgeon amid claims that NHS Lothian staff felt pressured to find “tactical solutions” to reducing waiting times rather than tackle the root of the problem.

It emerged in October last year that patients were referred to Northumberland for treatment. When they declined to go, they were not included among patients on a list which had the target time of 18 weeks for treatment.

Two members of staff were suspended when the practice was uncovered.

A steering group led by Dr Charles Winstanley, chairman of NHS Lothian, has now commissioned the firm David J Bowles and Associates to lead the health board review.

It will work with professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers to also help provide a working knowledge of the NHS in Scotland.

Dr Winstanley will lead the small group, made up of union representation and non-executive directors, to oversee the work and expects a final report by the end of this month.

He said: “Dignity at work is very important in NHS Lothian and I want to reassure our staff that this review will be comprehensive.

“It is essential that we reassure the public of our integrity, openness and transparency.”

Lyn Turner, Unite regional officer and “partnership lead” on the steering group, said it was vital the findings of the review are acted on immediately.

He added: “The investigation is being carried out in partnership with trade unions and I want staff to know that they should not be fearful in coming forward. It is a safe process.”