The First Minister was grilled over A&E waiting times at First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, after figures from Public Health Scotland showed the record poor performance earlier this week.
Last week more than 30 per cent of visitors to A&E waited more than four hours to be seen and transferred, admitted or discharged – the highest percentage since records began in 2015.
The Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) condemned the figures, saying analysis showed there had been 231 avoidable deaths in Scotland this year as a direct result of long waits at A&E.
Labour leader Anas Sarwar told the First Minister on Thursday to “take responsibility” for an NHS in crisis.
"Nicola Sturgeon has been warned for months about the challenges facing A&E,” he said.
“We now have people dying because of record A&E waiting times.
"There must come a point when it can’t be someone else’s fault.
"Earlier this week the First Minister described Scotland as a nation in waiting – she’s right.
"Waiting on record NHS treatment lists, waiting for an ambulance, waiting at A&E and waiting for her to take responsibility."
Ms Sturgeon said the figure from the RCEM needed to be understood in more detail, echoing an earlier response from a Scottish Government spokesperson.
But she added “no one can deny” a link between longer waiting times and increased risk to patients.
“The analysis appears to use research findings from England four years ago to make extrapolations from Scottish only data now, so we want to understand that in more detail,” she said.
“That said, everybody recognises the relationships between long waits in A&E that are not clinically justified and increased risk of harm to patients.
“Nobody can or should deny that, which is why we are investing in trying to cut A&E waiting times and improve the flow through our hospitals.”
Dr John Thomson, vice president of the RCEM, said the current poor performance was “seriously worrying” and was putting patient safety at risk, leading to avoidable deaths.