Highland GP recruitment drive fails again

NHS Highland has failed to recruit seven GPs in a remote part of the region after advertising the jobs for a second time.

Arisaig, one of the locations for which NHS Highland advertised. Picture: Contributed
Arisaig, one of the locations for which NHS Highland advertised. Picture: Contributed

The health board had re-advertised the posts in the West Lochaber area, covering places such as Acharacle, Arisaig and Strontian, after a first round of adverts did not attract enough applicants.

NHS Highland had hoped a new plan for a cluster of local practices would have allayed potential applicants’ concerns about having to work alone in an area with around 3,200 patients.

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However, the second attempt has again failed to get enough people to come forward to staff that model of cover.

NHS Highland said: “Unfortunately, there were insufficient applicants to fully staff the model and we will therefore be meeting to explore next steps in the next few weeks.

“In the meantime the current arrangements will continue.”

The West Lochaber Medical Practice requires four doctors for the Northern team and three for the southern team.

The health board said that although there was a good level of interest in the first round of advertising, with a large number of enquiries, only a small number of applications were received.

The spokeswoman added: “Whilst we were pleased with the level of interest our aim on this occasion is to increase the number of applications received.

“At the moment NHS Highland continue to provide locum GPs to cover the practices, they provide the normal GP practice services. We are using a small number of regular locums so that they get to know the area and provide improved continuity of care for patients.”

The Mallaig Practice is covered and run by Dr Gartshore and his colleague Dr Schultz.

The Small Isles is covered by locum doctors employed by NHS Highland - one doctor at any given time - and Acharacle is covered by locum doctors employed by NHS Highland - two doctors at any given time, sharing on-call.

NHS Highland has also been working closely with Scottish Government to develop new approaches to delivering sustainable services in remote and rural areas.

The board said the model for the West Lochaber Medical Practice was one example of how services can develop to meet the unique challenges of these locations.

The spokeswoman added: “We are confident that this is a robust and sustainable model and are very supportive of Dr Gartshore in his efforts to progress this.”

Dr Gartshore has previously admitted the location would not appeal to everyone.

He said: “There are a lot of people who cannot live without easy access to the internet and wi-fi at every location, or easy access to a whole range of shopping, coffee shops and all the other leisure opportunities. They just don’t exist here.

“People are coming here with a very particular lifestyle that they need to be aware of and a particular way of life that they need to be able to adopt and fit into.”

West Lochaber is among remote and rural areas the Scottish government is targeting with £1.5m in funding to help deliver health care.