NHS savings of £2m a year could be made if boards in Scotland purchased hip and knee joints from the same suppliers, auditors have claimed.

Spending watchdog Audit Scotland said the cost of knee implants varied widely - from an average £1,832 at Golden Jubilee Hospital near Glasgow to £2,060 in the Western Isles.

Similarly, artificial hips ranged from £858 in Lothian to £1,832 in neighbouring Forth Valley.

NHS boards can reduce the cost of implants and standardise training by minimising the different types of implants that are used and purchasing implants that provide best value for money based on cost and clinical effectiveness,” the report said.

Encouragingly, the investigation also found improvements in treatment times, with 95 per cent of patients seeing a doctor within 26 weeks of referral - a vast improvement on the 66 per cent recorded in 2003.

It also identified areas for the NHS to explore for further savings, including moving inpatient care to day surgery and reducing the length of time patients stay in hospital.