An island General Practitioner made a four-day round trip by air, land and sea to cover a morning shift at a surgery on a neighbouring Hebridean isle. Dr Jan Brooks lives on Colonsay and was asked to provide cover on Jura. The islands have an hour-long ferry link in summer, but not in winter. Because of transport timetables for planes and ferries, Dr Brooks had to leave her home on 4 February. She did not get back home until 7 February.
Her journey included return flights from Colonsay to Oban on the mainland, a 110-mile trip (177km) trip by car to catch a ferry to Islay and a further 70 miles (112km) by road and car ferry between Islay and Jura. Dr Brooks was asked at short notice to fill a gap of three hours and 30 minutes between locum Dr Peter Grant leaving, and the arrival of a regular locum. Grantown-on-Spey-based Dr Grant said: "It is my understanding that it was going to be a local arrangement, but I think the arrangement broke down on the Friday before my departure.
Graphic from here.
"Jan Brooks from Colonsay stayed with us on Jura on the Sunday night, she had to leave Colonsay on the Saturday to get here. She took the flight from Colonsay to Oban and hired a car there." Dr Grant, Provost of the North of Scotland Faculty of the College of General Practitioners, added: "I can't pull a solution out of a hat but I think this situation highlights that large amounts of money is being paid for cover that is not very cost effective or helpful. I think it illustrates that it is not sustainable, it is something that has got to be sorted somehow." Argyll SNP MSP Michael Russell described the situation as "totally daft".
He added: "NHS Highland need to get their act together to ensure there are doctors for all the rural practices - and robbing Peter to pay Paul is not the way to do it." NHS Highland said it had been made aware of the gap in advance and had asked another GP to cover. A spokesman said: "However, this GP was at very short notice unable to provide that cover due to circumstances beyond their control and we had to find a replacement and this we did. Our priority was our patients on Jura and our staff pulled out all the stops to find a GP at short notice and we would like to thank the GP in question for their help."