Nicola Sturgeon defends trauma centre 'delays'
Nicola Sturgeon has insisted the government is right to take its time developing a network of trauma centres.
The first minister came under fire from opposition leaders, who said centres in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow were meant to be operational in 2016.
Ms Sturgeon said the "scale and complexity" of the changes meant full implementation could take three years.
But she insisted Scotland's NHS was outperforming health boards in other parts of the UK.
The first minister was in Dundee on Wednesday to announce an extra £5m for the development of the trauma centres.
The network, which links centres around the country and the Scottish Ambulance Service in an integrated unit, was announced in 2014 and was supposed to open in 2016, but will not be fully implemented until at least 2020.
At the weekly session of questions to the first minister, Ms Sturgeon said her programme for government last year had only committed to conclude the preparatory work for the project by the end of 2016, adding that "many of the improvements" planned would be put in place over the course of 2017.
She said the government "has rightly taken time to get this right".
However, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said: "Communities have been expecting these centres for two years, and now have been told at least another three.
"I think they deserve a fuller explanation than the one given."
Kezia Dugdale joined the attack, saying "the only consistent thing the SNP delivers is broken promises on the NHS".
The Scottish Labour leader said: "Last year I met with leading consultants at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, and they told me that a new trauma centre for Aberdeen could be the difference between life and death for people in the north east.
"The SNP promised the trauma centres would be open in 2016, but yesterday the first minister announced a three-year delay and she looked like she was celebrating that delay. Given what the experts tell us, does the first minister accept this delay could be a matter of life and death?"
Ms Sturgeon responded: "The Aberdeen and Dundee major trauma centres will actually be fully operational as major trauma centres before the ones in Edinburgh and Glasgow, probably over the next year to 18 months, so Aberdeen is getting the lifesaving major trauma centre that actually some people thought it shouldn't get at all because there should only be two based in Glasgow and Edinburgh."
She emphasised that the centres were not brand-new facilities being built from scratch, saying the existing hospitals were providing "excellent" trauma care which an integrated network would enhance.
She said: "What we're talking about is continuing to enhance what they do and to join up the services they provide with the services other hospitals provide and the Scottish Ambulance Service in an integrated trauma network. That work will continue over the next three years."
She added: "Yes, there is much more work to do, but we will continue to support our NHS in doing so.
"If Kezia Dugdale was standing in my place right now, the health service would have less money than it does. That's why she's got a cheek to come and ask the questions that she is."
The first minister also hit back at the Scottish Conservative leader, saying: "It's a bit rich for Ruth Davidson to come to this chamber and talk about the health service in the week that the Red Cross has accused her party of presiding over a humanitarian crisis in the health service in England."
Both Ms Davidson and Labour's Elaine Smith raised complaints about the government making major announcements like that on the trauma centres to the media before informing parliament.
Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh, who ticked off Ms Sturgeon in December for announcing her proposals for a Brexit deal to journalists before MSPs, said the parliamentary bureau was currently considering the issue.
The Scottish government later confirmed that Health Secretary Shona Robison will make a statement to MSPs about the matter.