NHS Scotland made efficiency savings worth nearly £300m in 2008, exceeding the £215m target, according to health secretary Nicola Sturgeon.

“Every single penny” of that money was re-invested in frontline health services, she told the SNP annual conference in Inverness.

But she said “challenging savings targets” must be met again.

Ms Sturgeon said: “As the full consequences of Westminster economic mismanagement come home to roost we will have to work harder to protect the things that matter most.”

She added: “Big increases in spending are for now a thing of the past. That’s why it is so important that we make the budget go further.”

She stressed that in the future “every penny saved will be invested in frontline care”.