A Scottish health board has demanded an urgent review after it emerged a private contractor failed to perform necessary checks on employees at a hospital.

It is understood the situation at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh came to light when NHS Lothian asked the private firm Consort Healthcare to check the background of a staff member, but it admitted it had never been carried out.

There are now concerns that hundreds of staff at the hospital may not have been properly checked and NHS Lothian has reportedly requested 580 Disclosure Scotland forms, which look at the background of staff members with regards to criminal convictions.

Jackie Sansbury, chief operating officer at NHS Lothian, said: “We were surprised and disappointed to discover that our PFI provider Consort has not been performing the necessary checks on all their staff members employed in the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh.

“This is in breach of our agreement with the company and I have demanded an urgent review from them.

“Patients must be able to have complete faith in their safety while in hospital and therefore we have insisted that sub-contracted employees will work in pairs in areas we have identified as appropriate.

“This will be done at no additional cost to the NHS until the problem is resolved and the checking process is complete.”

No one from Consort was immediately available to comment, but a spokeswoman told the Edinburgh Evening News newspaper: “Consort is investigating the reason for this lapse and is carrying out full checks.”

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw urged health secretary Nicola Sturgeon to carry out a review to ensure the same thing has not happened elsewhere in the country.

He said: “This lapse in security at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary will cause widespread concern.

“It is inexcusable. Although this failure is the responsibility of a private contractor, the concern and suspicion of many members of the public will be that it is typical and that the failure to mount adequate employee checks is far more widespread.

“Nicola Sturgeon must act quickly to establish the facts, act accordingly and urgently as required and reassure the public at the earliest opportunity.”