Wanted: A GP couple for perhaps the UK’s most remote medical practice

Organisation: Position: Deadline Date: Location:

Only 134 patients to take care of, but the remoteness of this Inner Hebrides practice may mean the occasional assistance of Dr YouTube and Nurse Skype, reports The Guardian.

The details carried on the job advert are prosaic enough: GPs “with remote and rural experience” are invited to apply for a job tending to the needs of the practice’s patients, all 134 of them. But, reports The Guardian, there is nothing dull about the posting on the island of Colonsay in the Inner Hebrides. Medical qualifications aside, a sense of adventure, self-reliance and an outgoing personality will be essential for whoever takes the helm at what may be the UK’s most remote and isolated medical practice. Above and beyond are normal here.

According to the report, from April, Colonsay will lose its husband-and-wife job-sharing GPs after a decade of service. David Binnie and Jan Brooks have reached retirement age and feel it is time to hand over responsibility for this island community to a younger doctor, or preferably a couple. The challenges, according to Binnie, are numerous, but the rewards make it more than worthwhile.

Colonsay is linked to Scotland’s mainland services by a two-and-a-half-hour ferry journey from Oban. “Depending on weather conditions and the vagaries of the service, it can be several hours – stretching to days in some instances – before they can get to hospital. In that time, we have to care for them.”

In emergencies an air ambulance is available, but a helicopter can still take several hours. In these situations the GP can be the last line of defence. “We really feel the burden of responsibility for each of our patients, although we have a fantastic support network and a retrieval team based in Glasgow. But there’s also a great deal of resilience among the islanders. The fire service have extensive first aid training and they can be of great assistance. There’s real community involvement. Everyone in the island looks after each other’s needs.”

Colonsay, together with its little sister, Oronsay, are about 10 miles long and three miles wide. Even among the jewels off Scotland’s rugged west coast, Colonsay’s beauty is outstanding. Green fields separate remote beaches from jagged peaks, and it teems with animal and bird life. Agriculture, crofting, estate work and tourism are the main sources of employment, with the population rising to more than 600 in the summer. It may be remote, but all the staples of Scottish life are here in miniature: brewery, golf course, church, shop, hotel and school (eight pupils).

Binnie added: “The challenges are also the benefits. The isolation gives you this extra sense of responsibility and reward. Dealing with illness in a remote setting taxes your medical skills, but through this you get far longer with your patients and get to know them as people.”

The job ad is to be found on the BMJ careers website and on NHS Highland. Jan Brooks says she and her husband will help their replacements make the transition: “Our experience and instincts give us a different perspective: what will work here? How can we make this work in this environment? We can work out a package, sometimes with the aid of Dr YouTube and Nurse Skype.”

Full report in The Guardian

BMJ Careers

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