Nicola Sturgeon was in Fife to open a brand new treatment centre as her last official engagement as first minister.
Ahead of stepping down from the top job next week, Ms Sturgeon officially opened the £33 million national treatment centre for orthopaedics at Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy.
It is hoped the state-of-the-art facility will help address pressures on the NHS and a backlog caused by Covid.
Ms Sturgeon said: “This is the perfect way to draw my time as first minister to a close.
“There is nowhere I would rather be than here.
“It gives me the opportunity to say the final sentences I will utter publicly as first minister and they are the most important ones to me.
“Thank you to the National Health Service, and to everyone who works in the most precious institution in our country.
“You will always be in my heart and I will always be a champion and advocate for everything you do. Thank you.”
Ms Sturgeon also said it was a fitting way to spend her last day as first minister – her last as health secretary was also spent at Victoria Hospital.
The centre will provide additional capacity for more than 700 orthopaedic procedures a year, including hip and knee surgery.
The centre is the first of four national treatment centres to open this year across Scotland, and includes an orthopaedic outpatients department, three surgical theatres and a ward and short stay unit.
Earlier this year, non-emergency surgeries were postponed at Victoria Hospital as NHS Fife battled “unprecedented pressure” on its services.
It came after data showed that 142 people had been forced to wait for more than 12 hours to see a medic at the hospital’s A&E.
‘Faster access to life-changing surgery’
Ms Sturgeon said: “Our National Treatment Centre programme is a significant investment in frontline planned care infrastructure and is a crucial part of our NHS recovery plan.
“We are determined to ensure people receive the treatment they need as soon as possible so I am pleased to officially open the Fife centre, which will give people across the country faster access to life-changing orthopaedic surgery.”
Tricia Marwick, chair of the NHS Fife board and former presiding officer of the Scottish Parliament, said: “The new purpose-built facility is the culmination of many years of work and to see patients now being seen and treated in such a new, state-of-the-art environment is fantastic.
“To see the project delivered successfully and on budget, particularly given the additional challenges of building during a pandemic, is a credit to all of those involved.
“We are fortunate here in Fife to have an incredibly forward-thinking and innovative orthopaedic team and this new facility will support them to deliver the very highest standard of care for patients.”