FIRST Minister Nicola Sturgeon has defended her Government's record on the NHS after being pressed on the issue by MSPs across the parties.

During First Minister's Questions on Thursday, she was asked about issues including closed hospital wards and funding for health boards.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard asked Sturgeon why the children's ward at St John's Hospital in Livingston has not yet been opened on a 24/7 basis.

Highlighting a commitment made by Health Secretary Jeane Freeman earlier this year that the ward would be open at all times by October this year, Leonard said it currently remains closed three nights a week.

Sturgeon said: "It will be open 24/7 as soon as it is clinically safe for children for it to be so, when the recruitment levels, which have been difficult, reach a level where that ward can be open.

"Now I'm assuming, Richard Leonard may want to correct me if I'm wrong, but I am assuming he's not arguing that that ward should be opened when it is not clinically safe for children."

The Labour leader responded: "But you knew about these problems seven years ago. Surely by now you should have ensured that this hospital is safe and it is reasonable to have it functioning for children again."

Also referencing the new Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh, which is now not due to open until next year over safety concerns, Leonard added: "Does the First Minister not understand how angry parents and patients, including children, are over her Government's failure to protect and deliver children's health services?

"Isn't it clear that the SNP cannot be trusted with the NHS?"

Meanwhile, Scottish Conservative MSPs Edward Mountain and Liam Kerr raised the issue of finances and services at NHS Highland and NHS Grampian respectively.

In response to Kerr, Sturgeon said: "We are increasing health budgets for health boards across the country.

"And I would just again point to the Conservatives, as I frequently do when issues like spending on health, on education, on justice, or any other matter, are raised - if we followed the strictures and the recommendations of the Conservatives when it comes to setting our budgets, if we had prioritised tax cuts for the richest in our country, instead of extra funding for the National Health Service, our health service right now would have more than £500 million less in its budget than it currently does."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie asked the First Minister about NHS Highland, where he claimed patients have been told to "seek treatment elsewhere because Raigmore Hospital is nearly full up".

He said: "After 12 years running our NHS, is the First Minister proud of that record?"

She responded: "Our NHS is seeing more patients than ever before.

"If you look just at accident and emergency, this is for the country overall, despite the pressures, more people are being admitted, discharged or transferred within four hours in this calendar year so far compared to the previous year.

"We've got record funding, record numbers of staff. Of course, we want to encourage patients to seek help and treatment in the best possible place for them, that is not always in hospital, that's often in primary care or in the community.

"But our health service is doing more than it's ever done before and I think it deserves our grateful thanks for that."

Rennie said: "People rely on the NHS and they are being let down by this Government.

"Thousands of people are stuck in hospital even though they are fit to go home despite the solemn promise from this Government.

"Audit Scotland say the NHS is critically short of staff, the Royal College of Emergency Medicine say we are hundreds of A&E beds short, and the waiting time guarantee - it's broken every hour of every day.

"After 12 years in power, has the First Minister got any more excuses?"

Sturgeon hit back at Mr Rennie, telling him: "For a representative of the party that was the co-architect of austerity to get up here and talk about spending in our health service really takes the biscuit."