NHS staff slept overnight in hospitals to ensure that patients would continue to be cared for as blizzards led to treacherous travel conditions.

While thousands of non-urgent planned procedures such as hip and knee replacements, breast screening and endoscopies have been cancelled across Scotland since Wednesday, urgent cancer surgeries and emergency care has continued even in the worst-hit areas as the health service faced up to its first ever red-alert weather warning.

Many staff were working past their shift times, walking miles to work, or offering lifts to stranded colleagues.

In NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, some staff even borrowed sets of scrubs to use as makeshift pyjamas so that they could sleep in their departments overnight.

One cancer surgeon was reported to have trekked nearly three hours, from Anniesland in Glasgow to the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley in Renfrewshire, in order to perform an urgent operation on a patient with bowel cancer. 

The unnamed surgeon was praised by colleague, Andrew Renwick, a Glasgow-based colorectal surgeon, who said she would hate to be named publicly "just for doing her job". 

He told BBC Scotland: "She walked from Anniesland to Paisley - it took her two hours and 50 minutes. I saw her come in, she had snow goggles on, Gortexed up, top and bottom, snow shoes and walking poles. 

"She is operating today on someone who has bowel cancer, she knew that had to be done and so she has made extra effort  to get in here to make sure that was actually delivered."

Facilities staff also worked overtime to ensure staff and patients would be fed, and there were stories of members of the public stopping in 4x4s to offer NHS staff lifts to work.

Companies have also offered to 4x4 vehicles and drivers to to ensure clinical staff made it to their shift on time.

Helen Watson , a staff nurse at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow, said she had "never been prouder" to work for the NHS. She said: "I was working the night shift on Tuesday and drove home to West Lothian but left home again at 3.30pm to come in for the night shift.

"Not everyone has made it in but everyone is doing their best, walking, sharing lifts and even sleeping over to make sure they are here for patients in the morning.

"You don't go into the NHS to get any reward; it's because you have a passion. We need to put patients first."

In Ayrshire, nurses who were unable to travel to Glasgow for work offered to cover shifts at Crosshouse Hospital instead.

A spokeswoman for NHS Lothian said many of its staff had also worked late on Wednesday and walked miles yesterday morning to report for work. A spokeswoman added: "We salute their commitment and thank them for their resilience.

"However we are requesting that off duty staff – particularly registered nurses – consider volunteering to work today to ease the pressures of today’s staff shortages. Staff able to work should call their manager to register their availability."

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Ambulance Service said they were facing "challenging" conditions, with an increase in 999 calls. 

She said: “Helping patients across Scotland during the extreme weather is proving to be a challenge, but our staff are doing an incredible job.

“The volume of calls we are receiving has increased but we have taken additional, robust measures to ensure our control centres and crews are staffed so that we can meet the extra demand and provide our patients with safe care.

“We would like to take this opportunity, not only to thank ambulance staff & volunteers for their hard word and dedication, but also to remind the public to only call 999 in a life threatening or serious emergency.”