SNP MSP John Mason has said the problems in Scotland's NHS are being “somewhat exaggerated."

The comments came during a debate in Holyrood after Labour's spokesperson read out warnings from a leading doctor that the health service may not survive.

Jackie Baillie told MSPs that lives were “being put at risk due to the state of our health service.” 

READ MORE: One in five patients at A&E last week had to wait over eight hours

She said: “Every day, staff are being asked to perform miracles under increasingly difficult conditions. And every day, the situation further deteriorates. 

“Over Christmas, the number of Scots waiting more than 12 hours in A&E soared to its highest point on record, leaving almost 2,000 a week stranded in waiting rooms for more than half a day. 

“One in seven Scots stuck on a waiting list. Crucial cancer treatment targets badly missed and performance keeps falling to new lows. 

“Delayed discharge has spiralled out of control, resulting in more than 1,900 beds being occupied every single day by somebody ready to be discharged but waiting for a care package that simply does not exist. 

“The list of failures goes on and on. Heroic NHS staff are exhausted and they are demoralised. It is right to thank them, but they don't simply want praise they want action.”

READ MORE: Sturgeon: 'Pressure on NHS and social care continues to be very high'

The Labour MSP then read out comments from Dr Iain Kennedy, the chair of BMA, who recently told the BBC that there was “no way that the NHS in Scotland can survive.”

“In fact, many of my members are telling me that the NHS in Scotland has died already,” he told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme at the end of December.

"Now that is a shocking observation from people who are on the frontline,” Ms Baillie told MSPs. “Our NHS has served the people of Scotland for decades. That the very existence of the NHS is now in danger is beyond belief. 

“And for the last 15 years, the NHS in Scotland has been run by the SNP. It is entirely devolved.” 

Addressing her comments directly to Humza Yousaf, she said this was on his watch: “In the 600 days you've been in office, you have performed worse than your predecessors and things have got worse not better. And it is time you took some responsibility for these serious failings.”

READ MORE: Sturgeon: 'Very slight easing' in A&E and bed pressures

The SNP’s John Mason intervened to ask Ms Baillie “if she would accept that she is somewhat exaggerating.” 

He added: “There are some parts of the NHS which are clearly struggling but there are other parts of the NHS which are doing very well.”

HeraldScotland:

Ms Baillie said she was quoting the words of Dr Kennedy. “He is not exaggerating,” she said. 

Mr Mason was later taken to task on the comment, and was asked if he agreed with the "clinicians who are saying these things, that the NHS is struggling, suffering, is on its knees."

"Well, I thought had been clear," he replied. "But I think what my point is, is that some parts of the NHS are clearly struggling and some parts of the NHS are doing incredibly well.

"It is a mixture it is not one picture. And I do not think that exaggeration and bringing up the most extreme individual cases serves opposition politicians well at all.

"We will do ourselves and the country a better service if we discuss these challenges in a serious and sensible way. And especially if we focus on what practical steps can be taken. "

In his speech, Mr Yousaf said the NHS was under pressure, facing the impact of the pandemic, Brexit and the cost of living crisis. 

But he said the Scottish Government had put £1 billion towards their NHS Recovery Plan and was making efforts to deal with the problems. 

He told MSPs: “This is the most challenging period that NHS Scotland and I suspect NHS systems right across the UK have ever faced. 

“We recognize these unprecedented pressures, and of course have put forward a series of actions, announced in October last year, in relation to helping our NHS and social care through this very challenging winter. 

“As I say Scotland is not alone. These are challenges that are being faced, not just across the UK but in health services right across the world. We had that perfect storm of pressure we are encountering that's impacting on our health and social care systems.”

Mr Yousaf said the Scottish Government’s strategy was “to invest in social care to try to help with that exit block, which we know is causing such significant challenges in our busiest acute sites and we will also do our best to reduce demand at the front door and that is beginning to pay off.

“We can see actually the attendances at the front doors of our hospitals is lower than it was in pre-pandemic levels.

"People are of course coming in sicker, higher acuity that is something that is coming across from clinicians on the front line day in,day out.

"But if we deal with the front door, deal with the exit block, I believe that we can make a difference and see that recovery. And that is what our relentless focus is on.” 

He said he was confident that “with the combined efforts of an incredible workforce, and the will of this government these challenges will be met, they will be overcome.”

Tory health spokesman Sandesh Gulhane said Mr Yousaf was wrong to blame COVID, Strep A or the flu for pressures on the NHS today.

He told MSPs: "The underlying problems facing Scotland's NHS are long in the making, long before but during the SNPs period of government.

"Failed workforce planning, cutting the number of student nurse places, failure to solve delay discharged from hospitals as promised in 2014.

"This all predates the pandemic.

"And we've been pressing the Cabinet Secretary month in month out to plan and prepare for this winter.

"And as he knows only too well nursing vacancies are up 10% this year. There are now 6319 Nursing vacancies in NHS Scotland. Also in the year to March 22, over 7000 nurses left the NHS. One in nine nurses. The highest number of leavers on record.

"Delayed discharge is at a record high and don't get me started on primary care where BMA survey found 81% of practices say patient demand exceeds capacity."