Residents on a remote Scottish island who launched an internet campaign to find a new doctor are celebrating after a husband and wife team accepted the job.
Doctors Martin and Abby Beastall from Doncaster responded after the 200 islanders on Jura were left without a resident GP and adverts placed in medical journals failed to attract any candidates.
Islanders launched a Facebook campaign and offered discounted accommodation and ferry travel to anyone interested in the post. They also promised a bottle of its famous Jura whisky to anyone who helped them land the right candidate.
The Beastalls found out about the job by chance while browsing a news website.
Dr Beastall, 36, says his wife, who is on maternity leave with their new daughter, will share the clinical work from May.
“I started on Monday and had my first call out to see an elderly woman. It was like being a proper GP again,” he said.
“I was previously in a big practice in urban Doncaster and the changes in England are moving doctors away from patient contact. In my experience, people are happy with a doctor they know and trust, who they can see when they want to.
“As soon as Abby and I read the details, we knew it was something we wanted to do and I rang the health board the same day.
“Abby had introduced me to the west coast of Scotland when we revisited her childhood holiday destination of Glenuig on our honeymoon.”
Writing on his blog, Dr Beastall added: “One new discovery was that as well as having its own ambulance… the surgery also has its own 4x4, for those tricky-to-reach houses down dirt tracks.”
Jura, where George Orwell wrote his seminal 1984, boasts picturesque beaches, an abundance of wildlife, a bar, shop and a world-famous distillery.
But it had been without a permanent GP for two years and had to rely on locum cover.
The island’s remoteness in the Inner Hebrides means the doctor is permanently on call and has to do everything.
The first task for the last full-time GP was to change the tyre on the island’s ambulance.
Rob Tigeir, Jura’s local development officer, said: “It’s important that when we go to see a doctor more than once for a complaint that it’s the same doctor. We don’t want to have to explain our complaints again and again. Over the last year, we’ve had to explain our complaints many, many times. We need a doctor to see the patterns and provide continuing care.
“The locums are very good but we need that consistency.”
Willie MacDonald, Jura’s estate manager and community council chairman, added: “I still feel there are doctors out there who just want to be doctors working within relatively small communities, covering 24/7 and being part of the community.
“You’ve got a beautiful location. It’s a friendly place to live. The lifestyle’s good. The schooling’s good. There’s no crime, as such. People are very laid-back in comparison to what you’d have in a city environment.”
In 2005, the local health board advertised the position twice, with no applicants. Residents placed their own adverts and attracted 132 inquiries from all over the world, but the last GP had to leave to look after an elderly relative.