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NHS chiefs have confirmed that the Mallaig and Arisaig medical practice will welcome two new GPs later this year, who will hopefully be joined at some stage by an Advanced Practitioner Nurse.
Currently the practice is serviced by a locum doctor, but NHS Highland has told the Lochaber Times that, following a national recruitment campaign, two salaried GPs have been appointed to the Mallaig and Arisaig medical practice.
‘Both commence in their contracted posts in September 2022. Both GPs will be living within the local area and are invested in the local community, they will both work two days in the practice, and in addition to this NHS Highland is looking to secure an Advanced Practitioner to work as part of the team in Mallaig,’ said NHS Highland in a statement.
‘This is an exciting development for the practice and will bring continuity to the practice population. Until both candidates commence employment in September 2022, the practice will continue to be covered by locum GPs.’
Local Caol and Mallaig ward Highland councillors Allan Henderson welcomed the confirmation of the new GPS, although it had been expected that at least one of them would be in post this month.
Councillor Henderson told us: ‘We had previously heard that one of these new GPs was to start in February with the other starting around July or August.
‘My understanding is that the NHS had said it would be almost impossible to get a locum to cover for three days a week if one of these GPs started early and so it was agreed that both should start at the same time.
‘Mallaig and Arisaig have been too long without a permanent doctor. And two GPs will increase the resilience of the practice there.’
Councillor Rixson, while also welcoming the confirmation that the two new medics were to start this year, did feel it was a slight step backwards that one was not starting in February as had originally been mentioned.
‘Nothing against the locum staff, but if both doctors do not start until September, it means Mallaig and Arisaig practice area will have been without a permanent doctor for about two years,’ he said.
Councillor Rixson added that, while it was understandable that much of the Lochaber Health Redesign Project was focused on a replacement for the ageing Belford Hospital in Fort William, it should not be forgotten that the primary level of interface for the majority of Lochaber’s residents with health services was their local GP practice.
‘While these two part-time GPS will be an improvement, what is really needed is a full-time permanent GP practice for an area that includes not just Mallaig and Arisaig, but encompasses Morar and Knoydart also,’ he said.
‘We have a purpose-built surgery building in Arisaig that is currently mothballed and pretty much a relatively new purpose-built practice in Mallaig also.
‘People like continuity and I also have concerns about what it means for an area that attracts about 10,000 people during the summer, anyone of whom could need a doctor. What happens if one of them gets sand in their eye or stands on a bit of glass? All that takes time to deal with.
‘I’ve never heard anyone complain about the service currently on offer, but this really needs to be a full-time job for at least one person.’