PATIENTS would be willing to travel out of their local area for specialist surgeries if the Golden Jubilee model of centralised, high volume care was replicated elsewhere in Scotland, the health minister has said.

Shona Robison said politicians, health professionals and patients needed to enter into a debate about whether the health service could be improved by creating more super-hospitals like the national centre in Clydebank to deliver a high turnover of specialist elective surgeries such as hip and knee replacements, transplants and heart surgeries.

Speaking at The Herald-sponsored summit on the future of the NHS, 'Creating a Healthier Scotland', Ms Robison said: "The Golden Jubilee hospital is an excellent example of of high volume, highly specialist care. Maybe we need more of that in other parts of Scotland."

The Golden Jubilee hospital, purchased by the NHS for £38 million in 2002, is home to regional and national heart and lung services, is a major centre for orthopaedics, and is the flagship hospital for reducing waiting times in key elective specialities across Scotland.

Patients from all over Scotland, including as far afield as Orkney, Shetland and the Highlands, are routinely referred to the Jubilee as part of efforts to meet waiting times targets. The facility has an on-site hotel with rooms for those travelling a distance.

Ms Robison added that she believed patients would be willing to trade undergoing specialist surgeries at their nearest local hospital in exchange for high quality care further from home.

"I have found people quite willing to travel to the Jubilee for their hips and knees because they know it has a great reputation," she said. "We have to find a way of separating elective and emergency care and have a debate about that."

The suggestion emerged as part of a wide-ranging debate held at Glasgow's new super-hospital, the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, which was attended by senior health professionals including Jason Leitch, the national clinical director for the Scottish Government; Theresa Fyffe, director of the nurses' trade union, RCN Scotland; and Dr Peter Bennie, chair of the Scottish council of the BMA.

Dr Bennie said politicians need to bite the bullet of "the electoral cycle" and be willing to centralise more acute services at the expense of local hospitals.

Dr Bennie said: "Politicians need the public to accept travelling further for acute care in exchange for overall improvements."

The Scottish Government launched its national conversation on the future of the NHS in Scotland earlier this month in a bid to develop a vision of how the nation's healthcare should be delivered in 10 to 15 years amid the pressures of an ageing population and the growing toll of long-term chronic conditions such as dementia and diabetes.

Ms Robison said the emphasis had to be on moving towards greater care in the community to allow patients to remain at home for longer, as well as making the health service more functional across a seven-day week.

The summit also heard that NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde had treated a near record number of patients in A&E departments this week.

Some 15,000 people passed through the health board's emergency departments on Monday.

Dr Leitch said: "We were 20 patients short of the record for a single day, and it's only August. Demand is exponential. But 93.8 per cent of those patients were seen and discharged or admitted within the four-hour target. It's not quite 95 per cent [the government target], but I think that's pretty good."

The new Queen Elizabeth hospital was criticised over deteriorating A&E waiting times immediately after it opened this summer, which saw performance dip to 83.2 per cent - the worst in Scotland.

Meanwhile, new figures showed health boards are missing the Scottish Government's legally binding 12-week waiting times guarantee.

Across Scotland between April and the end of June, 94 per cent of patients were treated in line with the law, but more than 4,000 waited longer.

Ms Robison said the Government was targeting support where it was needed most.

She said: "This includes funding of £1.5m to the Golden Jubilee which will enable the hospital to deliver an extra 1,500 operations as well as recruit additional clinical staff and allow for weekend surgeries.

“This will help free up capacity at other health boards and mean that patients from across Scotland get faster treatment."