Opposition parties have issued fresh calls for Health Secretary Shona Robison to be replaced amid the latest statistics on NHS performance.
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard and Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said Ms Robison had failed to tackle a host of issues facing the health service, including delayed discharges, A&E waiting times and cancelled operations.
Data published this week showed a 2 per cent rise in the number of patients delayed in leaving hospital despite being medically fit to leave in March, compared with the same month the previous year.
Statistics on A&E waiting times showed the target set by ministers had not been met again in April while in the same month more than 580 operations were cancelled for non-clinical reasons.
During First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood, Mr Leonard highlighted a pledge made by Ms Robison in 2015 to eradicate delayed discharge over the course of that year.
He said her “broken promise” had cost the health service more than £392 million.
“This week the government was forced to admit that it has not met its A&E waiting-times target for eight consecutive months, that hundreds of operations are being cancelled every single month, waiting times are up year on year and our hardworking NHS staff are overstretched and undervalued,” he added.
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“First Minister, they deserve better than this, patients deserve better than this. They deserve a Health Secretary who is up to the job.
“When will the First Minister finally put patients before her party and accept that it is time for her Health Secretary to go?”
Also citing the statistics, Mr Rennie said: “Hasn’t the time come for the First Minister to admit the scale of the problem and replace the Health Secretary who cannot control it?
“Will the First Minister take the summer to replace health team or will this parliament have to do it for her in the autumn?”
Ms Sturgeon said: “Richard Leonard has just exposed there that he doesn’t really care about patients, this is all about politics as far as he’s concerned.
“Under Shona Robison as Health Secretary there has been a 24 per cent reduction in the number of bed days lost to delayed discharge ... that is the equivalent to 435 extra beds in our NHS.
“Progress has been made and we’re absolutely determined to continue that progress in the months and years ahead.
“I don’t deny the challenges in our health service. Every health service across the UK, across Europe and across the world is facing these challenges.
“This is a government that is doing the hard work both in terms of reform and in terms of investment to meet those challenges, and we will continue to get on with that job.”