HEALTH chiefs are re-advertising for a GP to cover one of the country’s most remote locations after a doctor refused to commit to the area.
The tiny community of Applecross on an isolated Wester Ross peninsula, whose surgery has 265 patients, is still without a permanent GP, and is currently being covered by highly paid locums.
The job was offered to a doctor who had applied for the post four months ago, but has since pulled out of a move.
A spokeswoman for NHS Highland confirmed it was due to re-advertise the post imminently. She said: “We were unsuccessful in appointing to the vacant position in Applecross. The successful applicant withdrew as they were unable to commit to the required cover.
“However, we will shortly be advertising for salaried GPs to support practices in Skye, Lochalsh and Wester Ross, including Applecross.
“In the meantime, the practice continues to be covered by locums to ensure continuity of care.”
She added: “We will be advertising up to three whole-time equivalent salaried GP positions to support a number of practices across the west as this will help us to avoid the use of locums in such practices in the future.”
Local MSP Rob Gibson urged the health board to increase its efforts to fill the post. He said: “It is important to know that there are incentives to encourage the post to be filled to help solve this problem for the Applecross community.
“I will be asking the health board to brief me on the latest situation. It is important that this post is filled as soon as possible.”
The post became vacant when the previous GP quit after three years in the job.
Dr Mark Darbyshire left in September to return to Wales where he had previously worked as a GP in Chepstow.
He had moved nearly 600 miles to the remote location in 2009 after a worldwide appeal. When he applied for the position, Applecross had been featuring in the BBC TV series Monty Halls’ Great Escape.
The local community had also drummed up interest in the vacant position by advertising it on its own website dedicated to finding a doctor.
Dr Darbyshire had initially shared the workload and £70,000 salary with the long-serving GP Dr Janice Cargill, who provided out-of-hours cover until she retired last year, when the health board provided locum cover to support Dr Darbyshire, a keen mountaineer.
In 2009, applications were received from 16 doctors, including one who wanted to commute from Arizona. There were also inquiries from South Africa, Lithuania and Poland.
The Applecross peninsula overlooks Skye. The main access road is the highest pass in Scotland, at 2,053ft above sea level, and is described as “unsuitable for learner drivers, caravans or those of a nervous disposition”. Although Applecross has fewer than 300 residents, it is a very busy area during the tourist season and is particularly of interest to visiting climbers and hillwalkers.
Alison MacLeod, of Applecross Community Company, said: “This is not the sort of job which would appeal to your normal doctor these days – it is not so well-paid, they provide 24/7 cover and they need to be able to cope with quite a lot on their own before help arrives.”
“However, we are convinced that there are a few out there who it would suit perfectly.”