Nicola Sturgeon has apologised to patients who have faced waits or delayed treatment as a result of winter strain on the NHS.
The First Minister said NHS Scotland was dealing with “exceptional” pressures but was coping despite difficult circumstances.
The latest figures show that the number of people suffering from flu in Scotland has more than doubled compared to the same time last year, with around half of NHS boards reporting significant ward pressure as a result of the virus.
Ms Sturgeon told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “I would apologise unreservedly not just during the winter but at any time of the year to any patient who is not seen as quickly as we would want them to be seen in the NHS or who doesn’t get the treatment that they have a right to expect.
“We have seen exceptional pressures this winter largely due to the increase in flu cases but also, particularly in the period immediately before Christmas, weather-related pressures but the hard work, the incredible hard work, the incredible team work, of the staff of the NHS - and I want to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of them - means that our NHS is coping in very, very difficult circumstances.
“The majority of people who attend at accident and emergency will be seen within four hours and of course ... the blanket cancellation of planned operations that we’ve seen take place in England has not happened in Scotland.”
Official figures from Public Health England show that south of the border the uptake of the flu jab among NHS staff is less than 60%.
On the uptake rate in Scotland, Ms Sturgeon said: “The figures we have at the moment would suggest that broadly uptake levels are in line with last year.
“Early intelligence, and I would stress it is early intelligence, it’s not a final figure, would suggest that vaccination rates amongst NHS staff are actually slightly higher than they were last year.”
Asked what the level was last year, she responded: “It’s below 50 per cent amongst NHS staff.
“The message is if you are eligible to be vaccinated in the NHS or outside the NHS then take it up.”