The NHS has had to turn to the private sector to meet a "temporary" shortage of resources, according to the Health Secretary.

Private sector spending by the NHS has reportedly risen by 60% in the last year, with NHS Lothian accounting for almost half of the total increase.

Local health planners "grossly under-estimated" the increase in the population of the Lothians in the last decade when they designed the new Edinburgh Royal Infirmary (ERI), leaving the present Scottish Government to "to pick up the consequences of those mistakes", Health Secretary Alex Neil said.

Private sector spending must only be used "as a last resort", according to Mr Neil who said he believes it will be kept to "an absolute minimum".

He told BBC Radio Scotland: "The Lothians accounts for 43% of this increase and the fundamental problem is undercapacity."

"The new ERI for example when it was planned 10 years ago was 20% undercapacity. They grossly under-estimated the increase in the population of Lothian and therefore we're left to pick up the consequences of those mistakes.

"One of the consequences is that in order to provide the timeous treatment guarantee that we have said we must get, and that 99% of patients in Scotland are now getting, then we've had to make some short-term use of the independent sector which will be a temporary phenomenon."

The Government is spending money on "additional capacity", particularly in NHS Lothian and also in Grampian where spending on private healthcare has reportedly tripled.

Private sector spending in Grampian will "absolutely" be coming down next year, Mr Neil said.

"I have made it absolutely clear to the chairs and chief executives of the 14 territorial health boards in Scotland that the use of the independent sector can only be a last resort because we have huge capacity in Scotland.

"I believe we are going to keep it to an absolute minimum. We are talking about a half a percent of the entire budget. This is not some kind of huge amount of money.

"I've made it absolutely clear to the 14 territorial boards to minimise the spend because we've got a substantial additional capacity being built in the NHS."

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Jim Hume said: "Successive SNP health ministers have vowed that the NHS in Scotland would not be privatised by the back door, the front door or any door.

"These figures show that the SNP's mismanagement of our health service has allowed privatisation to sneak in through a trapdoor.

"The Minister cannot hang health boards out to dry when it is his Government which has failed to provide adequate support in the face of the waiting times scandal, increasing waiting times in A&E units and cuts to nursing staff.

"Alex Neil's stubborn refusal to accept the reasons for this increase risks making a bad situation worse. Our health service doesn't need any more spin or grand pledges from a government obsessed with headlines.

"With an ageing population, it is clear that capacity issues with our health boards are only going to continue and worsen. Whilst increasing capacity in our hospitals is of course welcome, the Scottish Government must integrate health and social care services if it is sustain our NHS."