A NEW network of trauma centres will provide "world-class care" for the 1,100 most severely injured patients in Scotland each year, the Health Secretary has said.

Shona Robison defended delays in setting up the four new specialist NHS trauma centres in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee, telling MSPs it would have been "reckless" if she had ignored a report in 2015 which recommended creating two units instead.

In a briefing to the Scottish Parliament, she stressed there had been "rigorous debate" in the medical profession about the number of centres needed, with a "lack of clinical consensus" on the issue.

She said the network would "provide world-class trauma care that will save more lives and help thousands more people make a better recovery".

Ms Robison said the Scottish Ambulance Service would lead the way with its existing trauma desk expanding to a 24/7 operation from October. The service currently runs 8am to 8pm daily to identify patients who have suffered a major trauma and dispatch a consultant-led team to to patient's location.

By the end of next month, all road ambulances will also be fitted with equipment already used by the service's air and special operations response teams following a £175,000 investment. It includes new traction splints to protect broken legs, tourniquets, chest seals and extra-long needles to enable paramedics to perform a life-saving puncture into the chest cavity, even in obese patients.

The Scottish Ambulance Service is also piloting a triage tool that will enable paramedics to identify major trauma patients and where they should be taken.

Ms Robison said Aberdeen and Dundee would be the "trailblazers", with their trauma centres expected to be up and running "over the next 12 to 18 months", with the Glasgow and Edinburgh centres ready in 2020.

The units were originally expected to be in place by 2016.

Ms Robison said creating the network would cost £30 million but meant 1,100 people with major injuries to the head, chest and body will have access to "optimal care", with an estimated 40 more lives a year saved.

The centres will include a dedicated ward for serious trauma casualties, led by specialist trauma consultants and support staff, including physiotherapists.

Ms Robison said: "We're talking about 1,100 people with major trauma injuries who will be treated within these new major trauma networks, they already get excellent care, what this is about is providing optimal care and importantly about rehabilitation."

Conservative Shadow Health Minister Donald Cameron accused ministers of a "complete failure of forward planning" over the delays. He added: "That delay is intolerable because these are quite literally life-saving centres whose very existence for those with severe injuries will often make all the difference between life and death."

Labour health spokesman Anas Sarwar said Scotland's trauma network would be delivered 10 years behind England's.

Matt McLaughlin, regional organiser for Unison, said the timescale was "fair and reasonable" to ensure that the shake-up was delivered "in a planned manner in agreement with trade unions, staff and patients".