THE NHS can provide a seven-day round the clock service without having to function like a 24-hour supermarket, according to the Health Secretary.

Alex Neil said not all services would need to be provided on a 24/7 basis to tackle concerns about variable care.

"There is currently a misconception that this means delivering routine elective surgery 24 hours per day," he said.

Mr Neil will today publish a position paper setting out his vision for seven-day services.

"That is not the same as the kind of 'supermarket 24 hour a day culture' some have described. Patients simply would not want or find it convenient to receive a routine operation in the early hours of the morning," he said.

A number of reports have provided evidence of higher death rates among patients receiving emergency care at weekends. Patients who need diagnostic tests can face delays at the weekend too, risking impeding their care. Mr Neil acknowledged providing emergency medicine at weekends and overnight remains "especially challenging".

However, critics pointed out there is no additional funding available for the programme of work.

Norman Provan, associate director of the Royal College of Nursing in Scotland, said: "Health boards are already struggling to cope with increasing demands on services, so if the priority is to start providing a more comprehensive service seven days a week, the Scottish Government is going to have to provide additional investment."