A HEALTH authority is having to go back to the drawing board in its attempts to draw up a model of GP provision for some of Scotland's most remote communities.

NHS Highland chiefs believed an answer had been found in joining neighbouring practices, but a second attempt to recruit sufficient GPs has failed.

Last month the health board advertised for six salaried GPs "to be part of our team of eight remote and rural GPs, living and working in the rugged Scottish West Highlands, an area of outstanding natural beauty."

The new West Lochaber ­Medical Practice involves the amalgamation of the practices of Mallaig and Arisaig, The Small Isles (Eigg Muck, Rum and Canna) and Acharacle, which between them have 3200 patients.

The health board had hoped this would be the answer to GPs' concerns about having to work alone and allow them to share the burden of out of hours cover.

Last year the two doctors at the Acharacle Medical Practice, which also serves Strontian and Kilchoan, on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula, announced they were leaving, having worked day and night for almost four years.

Acharacle is now covered by locum doctors employed by NHS Highland with two doctors at any given time, sharing on-call.

The Mallaig Practice, including Arisaig, is currently covered and run by Dr Iain Gartshore, who had promoted the idea of the practice amalgamation, and his colleague Dr Sabine Schultz.

The Small Isles is covered by locum doctors employed by NHS Highland, one doctor at any given time. A health board spokeswoman said the second attempt to recruit the six doctors had failed.

She said: "Unfortunately there were insufficient applicants to fully staff the model and we will therefore be meeting to explore next steps in the next few weeks when the Gartshores come back from holiday.

"In the meantime the current arrangements will continue."

Before going off on holiday Dr Gartshore said he appreciated the location would not appeal to every doctor.

He said: "There are a lot of people who cannot live without easy access to the internet and wi-fi at every location, or easy access to a whole range of shopping, coffee shops and all the other leisure opportunities. They just don't exist here.

"People are coming here with a very particular lifestyle that they need to be aware of and a particular way of life that they need to be able to adopt and fit into."

NHS Highland is still hoping the model can work elsewhere.

On the island of Islay, the three existing GP practices are working to put in place a new service, exploring a multi-practice model, to enable a more stable and sustainable service centred around the community hospital and care home. They will look at whether this could be extended to include the island of Jura.

In Campbeltown a model is being developed which involves the community hospital and three local GP practices providing 24/7 care.

In Mid Argyll the plan is to implement a similar arrangement to Campbeltown but also looking at options for a multi practice model.

Last month the Scottish Government announced funding of £1.5 million to help test innovative ways of delivering healthcare in rural areas of Scotland.