Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon offered firm guarantees today that no NHS employee will face compulsory redundancy as part of plans to tackle public spending pressures.

Her comments follow heated exchanges in Holyrood last week when it emerged NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board plans to axe 1,252 posts in the next 18 months.

Labour’s Jackie Baillie accused the health secretary of presiding over cuts which could hit frontline care.

Ms Sturgeon told the BBC’s Politics Show that money is tight but added: “I’ll give three guarantees to the people of Scotland as Health Secretary.

“Firstly, quality of frontline care will be our guiding principle. That’s why we’re closely scrutinising the workforce projections that health boards are putting together just now.

“Secondly, no one in the NHS is going to lose their job, and it’s irresponsible for Jackie to say that. The NHS has a policy of no compulsory redundancies and that will continue to be the case.”

She added: “At the end of this SNP term of government there will be more people working in the NHS than was the case than when we took office.”

About half the proposed cuts in Glasgow and Greater Clyde are nursing and midwifery posts while other jobs to go include administrative and clerical positions.

NHS Lothian wants to reduce its workforce by about 2,000

Ms Baillie said if other boards follow Glasgow’s example, more than 5,000 jobs could be at risk in Scotland.

She said: “You can’t make cuts on this scale without damaging patient care. Doctors, nurses, midwives and hospital cleaners are in the absolute front line when it comes to delivering care and beating infection.

“The fact is that the SNP’s decision to under-fund the NHS is now having a devastating impact. The scale of the job losses proposed by NHS Lothian, and other health boards, is absolutely shocking.

“Instead of trying to cover-up or deny what is happening, we need the Health Secretary, Nicola Sturgeon, to take responsibility and tell us how many jobs will go across the country.”