THREE doctors are in the running to take over an island medical practice that has been without a permanent GP for almost a year.

NHS Ayrshire and Arran confirmed that three medics had submitted business cases to take over the Millport GP surgery, on the isle of Cumbrae. Interviews will take place on February 21.

It comes after NHS Ayrshire and Arran advertised the £338,500 contract for the fourth time in less than 12 months shortly before Christmas. The health board has struggled to find a permanent replacement since the island's previous GPs quit following a row over a community pharmacy opening in Millport.

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The latest recruitment drive attracted seven expressions of interest - the highest to date - and of those, three GPs submitted full business cases by the January 31 deadline.

A spokeswoman for NHS Ayrshire and Arran said: "We have received three business cases for the Cumbrae practice contract. We are now in the process of reviewing these and plan to interview the shortlisted providers scheduled on 21 February 2014."

Previous attempts to fill the vacancy have collapsed because applicants wanted too much money.

The island has relied on locums to provide medical cover since the previous GPs retired in April last year.