Nicola Sturgeon has apologised ‘unreservedly’ to patients who faced waits or delayed treatment because of ‘exceptional’ winter pressures.
Scotland’s First Minister said an increase in the number of flu cases had put the heath service under pressure, alongside bad weather.
Ms Sturgeon issued the apology during an interview on BBC Radio Scotland.
She said on the Good Morning Scotland programme: ‘I would apologise unreservedly not just during the winter but at any time of the year to any patient who is not seen as quickly as we would want them to be seen in the NHS or who doesn’t get the treatment that they have a right to expect…
‘We have seen exceptional pressures this winter largely due to the increase in flu cases but also, particularly in the period immediately before Christmas, weather-related pressures.’
It follows an apology by Greater Glasgow and Clyde NHS for delays and cancelled operations.
Latest Health Protection Scotland (HPS) figures showed that flu rates for the last week of December 2017 were double those at the same time in 2016.
HPS said 46 people per 100,000 had flu in the last week of 2017, up from 22 per 100,000 in the same week in 2016.
A&E attendances also went up by a fifth for the same period in 2017.
Ms Sturgeon praised health workers for ‘coping in very, very difficult circumstances’.
She said: ‘The hard work, the incredible hard work, the incredible team work, of the staff of the NHS – and I want to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of them – means that our NHS is coping in very, very difficult circumstances.’
She added that, despite the pressures, ‘the majority of people who attend at accident and emergency will be seen within four hours’.
And she added that Scottish patients had not faced ‘the blanket cancellation of planned operations that we’ve seen take place in England’.
However she urged NHS staff to get vaccinated for flu, amid early reports that a ‘slightly higher’ proportion of staff have had their vaccination compared to last year, when fewer than half did.
‘The message is if you are eligible to be vaccinated in the NHS or outside the NHS then take it up,’ she said.