MARKETING consultants from the Channel Islands have been hired in a bid to solve the GP recruitment crisis in the Highlands.
The team will be paid more than £13,000 for a two-month contract to recruit desperately-needed family doctors.
Despite an average salary of £89,000 and the chance to work amid some of the most beautiful scenery in the UK, concern is growing about GP shortages in the Highlands.
NHS Highland last year tried and failed to fill seven GP vacancies in the West Lochaber area alone..
Health bosses are now paying Jersey-based Orchid Communications £13,220 to try to solve the problem.
The firm will lead three pilot schemes, in Kintyre and Mid Argyll, Arisaig, and the Small Isles, with a focus placed on emphasising the positives of life in rural areas.
North MSP Mary Scanlon has welcomed the move, saying that the health board needs to “think outside the box” if they want to fill the vacancies.
Mrs Scanlon said: “There have been people saying for years that the health boards should try advertising in mountaineering magazines or wildlife magazines.
“That’s how you would find people who have an affinity with that way of life and I’m glad they’re now trying something out of the box.
“It’s a worthwhile step and I’m glad that the board are now taking positive steps to deal with growing problem.”
A report published this week by the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has warned that health boards will face an “increasing struggle” to provide services to patients.
The body, in a new policy paper, said a lack of broadband and mobile data services rendered many innovations championed by the Scottish Government useless in rural areas.
They said some doctors were forced to be on call 24 hours a day, meaning their own family lives were suffering, while others faced social isolation.
In October last year, the health board attempted to recruit new staff by creating a video and uploading it on YouTube.
In the six-minute film, workers seeked to dismiss misconceptions about the Highlands.
But less than a year later the health board are still spending thousands in a desperate bid to fill positions.
An NHS Highland spokeswoman said: “The initial focus will be on GP recruitment but it will also look at other health professions.
“It has become increasingly difficult to recruit and retain health and care professionals to remote areas.
“This scheme will play a vital role in helping to develop longer-term recruitment solutions that will allow the healthcare needs of rural communities to be delivered.
“Funding of £1.5million is being invested in testing innovative ways of recruiting to healthcare professionals in rural areas of Scotland and in particular GPs.”