A UKRAINIAN refugee returned to her home in a war zone to see a doctor because the wait in Scotland was too long, MSPs have heard.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton raised the “appalling” case of 22-year-old Maria at FMQs as Nicola Sturgeon was quizzed about the state of the NHS.

Mr Cole-Hamilton asked the First Minister if she was embarrassed that the young woman went to Kyiv, a city under Russia attack, rather than wait on the Scottish health service.

He said: “Last year, one in six people who couldn’t get a GP appointment actually carried out a medical procedure on themselves or got someone else to do it.

“Maria is 22 years old. She is a Ukrainian refugee who has been living in Scotland since the summer. She suffers from a hormonal thyroid condition which requires regular testing and treatment.

“But when she presented at her new GP, she faced an unexpected dilemma. 

The wait was so long that it actually made more sense for her to risk travelling back to a war zone to see her doctor in Kyiv and so she did.

“Presiding Officer, the air raid sirens, the drone strikes and the cruise missile attacks of the Ukrainian capital were less daunting to Maria than the wait for treatment on Scotland’s NHS. 

“That is appalling.

“These are the risks that people are taking for the sake of their health and all for the want of basic access to primary care. Can I ask the First Minister, is she embarrassed by this?”

Ms Sturgeon replied: “I don't know the circumstances beyond what Alex Cole-Hamilton has narrated of that case and it would be wrong for me to comment on an individual case. 

“But I do know we continue to support general practice. There are more GPs per head of population in Scotland than anywhere else in the UK - 83 GPs per 100,000 population here compared to 63 in England, 63 in Wales, 75 in Northern Ireland.

“Access to GPs, like access to other parts of the health service right now, are challenging and very challenging for some patients, and we continue to work to address that. 

“We will continue to do that with record investment, record support for recruitment and  partnership with those working so hard across our health service.”

Earlier, in response to questions from Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross, Ms Sturgeon admitted NHS workers were “struggling” in Scotland, but said that was the same UK-wide.