A SENIOR executive at NHS Fife has been suspended pending an investigation into alleged misconduct.

Professor Scott McLean, the chief operating officer in charge of acute services at the health board, has been absent from his post since November 2017.

Mr McLean has been on gardening leave on full pay pending the outcome of the inquiry. It is unclear what the nature of the allegations are against the 42-year-old executive.

One former colleague said she was surprised by the situation, saying Mr McLean was "well thought of" and "one of the good guys". She said she was only aware that Mr McLean had been on long-term leave but said the circumstances were shrouded in secrecy.

Another NHS source told the Herald that senior management were "cagey" about disclosing any details, but confirmed that an investigation is underway.

The post of chief operating officer is being filled in the interim by Helen Wright, NHS Fife's director of nursing.

Mr McLean, who is an honorary professor at the University of St Andrews' School of Medicine, joined NHS Fife in 2013, initially as the Executive Director of Nursing. He was subsequently promoted to COO (Acute Services) in 2015, a post which carries a salary of between £74,000 and £100,000.

Prof McLean, originally from Stirling, is a qualified nurse who studied at the University of Abertay in Dundee, graduating in 1995. He went on to work as a nurse at the Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy, Fife, and then for NHS Lothian.

In 2006, while employed as a senior cardiology nurse at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, he was presented with a British Heart Foundation 'Excellence Award' for his role in pioneering a lifesaving scheme which trained paramedics to administer clot-busting drugs to heart attack patients before they were admitted to hospital.

He went on to work in Ireland and then as the Director of Nursing and Governance for Barts Health NHS Trust in London, before returning to NHS Fife.

There have been a number of shake-ups at senior level in NHS Fife in recent years. Former chief executive John Wilson stepped down due to ill health in October 2014, and was temporarily replaced by Brian Montgomery. However, Dr Montgomery also took early retirement in 2015 and since June 2015 the post of chief executive has been held by Paul Hawkins, previously chief operating officer at Hywel Dda University Health Board in Wales.

Barbara Anne Nelson, the health board's director of workforce, said: “NHS Fife has a legal responsibility to protect the privacy of its employees, and is therefore unable to comment on matters relating to individual staff members, past or present.”