Sturgeon praises 'team spirit' of NHS volunteer cleaners
Office workers were asked to clean NHS Lanarkshire hospital wards last week.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has praised NHS office staff who volunteered over the festive period to clean hospital wards amid rising patient numbers.
NHS Lanarkshire asked the workers to help clean wards at Hairmyres, Wishaw and Monklands hospitals and GP practices due to "exceptional circumstances".
Elective or non-urgent operations were cancelled on several days last week as the health board struggled to cope with winter demand.
In an interview for STV's Scotland Tonight programme, Sturgeon rejected suggestions the NHS was in a poor position.
"Actually, conversely, I think the team spirit we have seen from NHS staff over the festive period has been commendable and I want to take this opportunity to thank NHS staff for pulling together and going above and beyond in the call of duty," she said.
When pressed if NHS office staff should be asked to clean wards, the First Minister replied: "Well, we faced exceptional pressures over the festive period.
"This year, for example, we have got flu levels that are double what they were at the same stage last year.
"We had a particularly icy period of weather going into Christmas, these all have implications."
The number of patients waiting to be seen in the country's accident and emergency wards has soared in recent weeks, with thousands having to wait beyond the expected four-hour waiting time target.
In response to Sturgeon's comments, Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary Miles Briggs said: "The SNP were warned repeatedly about the impending flu crisis and repeatedly failed to act.
"The impact of this has been devastating, and it's Scottish patients who are suffering.
"While the First Minister thinks it's okay for office staff to clean wards, it's clear to most that this is totally unacceptable."
Scottish Labour's shadow health secretary Anas Sarwar said: "Our hard-working NHS staff always deserve praise for the work they do, but they deserve more than praise, they need to be properly resourced to do their jobs.
"This winter crisis did not come from unforeseen circumstances. Our NHS faced a similar crisis last winter, yet the SNP overtly failed to make the preparations necessary to avoid another winter meltdown.'
He added: "Instead of blaming cold weather and offering nothing but warm words, Nicola Sturgeon should commit to providing NHS staff with the resources they need in 2018."
You can watch the full interview with the First Minister on Scotland Tonight on STV at 10.30pm on Monday.