First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has defended her government's record on the NHS after criticism about delays over the festive period.

She also apologised to 80-year old patient Tom Wilson after his case was brought to her attention by Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard.

Elective and non-urgent operations were cancelled last week at three hospitals and one health board, NHS Lanarkshire, had to ask office staff to volunteer to clean dirty wards in a bid to free up beds.

More than 5000 patients were forced to wait over four hours to be seen at accident and emergency departments between Christmas Day and Hogmanay, with hundreds others having to wait for more than 12 hours.

On New Year's Day, Mr Wilson waited three hours for an ambulance then 13 hours on a trolley for treatment.

Opposition party leaders criticised the Scottish Government's management of the health service during First Minister's Questions on Thursday.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie called the problems "largely predictable" and said they were down to "Nicola Sturgeon's failure to do her job over the last ten years".

The First Minister insisted NHS Scotland is outperforming its counterparts in England and Wales in a number of areas.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson called for a temporary halt on any planned cuts to hospital bed numbers.

She said: "People are waiting too long in A&E departments because there are no beds for them on wards, and because many of those hospital beds are taken up by patients who are waiting for their social care arrangements.

"But this SNP government has cut both hospital beds and elderly social care places, so when something like a flu crisis hits, the system breaks down.

"We need a moratorium before the next crisis, so will the First Minister promise to stop cutting hospital beds until patients have somewhere to go?"

Sturgeon replied: "I don't know if Ruth Davidson has bothered to look at the news this morning, where clinicians in England are saying that they have run out of beds in the NHS."

The SNP leader also pointed to higher rates of flu in Scotland compared to others areas of the UK, bringing more pressure on NHS Scotland than those faced elsewhere.

She added: "Nevertheless, Scotland's NHS remains the best-performing NHS anywhere in the United Kingdom.

"And it is about time that the opposition recognised the achievements of those working so hard on the frontline of our National Health Service."

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said Sturgeon had been "found out" on her stewardship of the NHS.

Leonard raised Mr Wilson's case to the First Minister after his son wrote to the health secretary earlier this week.

He said: "His son called 999 seven times only to be told that an ambulance was coming, not from the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary just 14 minutes away, but from Kelso.

"Tom Wilson then spent 13 hours on a trolley in a corridor in A&E before being admitted to a general ward.

"That is an 80-year-old man with underlying health conditions waiting more than 16 hours for treatment."