Hospitals are struggling to find enough beds and meet waiting-time targets while dealing with high numbers of winter vomiting bug cases, the Health Secretary has been warned.
Opposition MSPs raised their concerns with Alex Neil about the impact on the NHS of the highly-contagious norovirus, which is estimated to have hit about one in five people in Scotland.
Speaking in the Scottish Parliament on the first day back from the Christmas break, Mr Neil said wards are shut across hospitals.
"There is no doubt as a result of an upturn in seasonal flu as well as the norovirus incident there have been knock-on impacts on various aspects of certain hospitals," he said.
"As we sit today, there are 14 wards closed in eight hospitals in Scotland because of norovirus. We are managing that effectively and in quite a number of health board areas additional bed capacity has been brought in to deal with the situation."
The problem of increased demand on the NHS over winter was raised by Liberal Democrat MSP Jim Hume, who said some patients are having to wait longer in accident and emergency than the four hours standard.
"Despite additional funding, the constraints on staff are so severe that as few as 62% of some patients at some hospitals were treated in four hours over the festive period, with some patients forced to wait almost half a day in the hospital ward for treatment," he said. "I think we'd all agree that's unacceptable and I think the Cabinet secretary must get a tighter grip on the situation, and quickly."
Labour MSP Dr Richard Simpson said there is a wider problem in the health service.
"When Jim Hume raises the issue of capacity, this is not just about the winter situation, not just about norovirus, it is actually about the capacity in the system," he said.
Exactly 2,824 cases of norovirus were confirmed in the first 51 weeks of 2012, according to Health Protection Scotland (HPS), it emerged last week. Experts believe that for every confirmed case, there could be between 239 and 346 unrecorded cases.