A SCENIC area of the north-west Highlands has become the latest rural community to fail to attract interest in potential local GPs.

Durness in Sutherland has a beach which is rated one of the best in Scotland, however the remote corner of Scotland is failing to attract any applications for family doctors.

NHS Highland has yet to receive a single application in the six weeks since it first advertised the posts on a salary ranging from £73,370-£83,617 along with a "golden hello" incentive and relocation package.

The health board said it is "considering all options" after it failed to get any response following a campaign, which included advertising on specialist health worker job sites and on social media.

Nine GP surgeries in Scotland are being supported by health board because they cannot deliver the patient services required. Labour this week accused Health Secretary Shona Robison of 'denying there is a major problem' with the growing shortage of GPs.

The health board took over responsibility for the Durness practice following the retiral of Dr Alan Belbin at the end of June.

NHS Highland Primary Care Manager Fiona Duff said: "We saw this as an exciting opportunity for GPs to play a key part in the development of a multi-disciplinary team to provide high-quality services to people in one of the most beautiful parts of the country.

“However, we’ve unfortunately had no applicants, and clearly we must think very carefully about what to do now.

"We hope to meet local community representatives in the near future to discuss what happens next.”

The board’s plan was that salaried GPs, employed by NHS Highland, would be based in Durness to work across a number of locations, including Kinlochbervie and Scourie.

They would form part of a team which would include nurses, pharmacists, allied health professionals and administrative staff, as well as Scottish Ambulance Service and employees, to provide in-hours and out-of-hours care in the area.

The advertisement said it would be happy to consider any variations in working patterns, and applications from newly-qualified or experienced doctors.

Meanwhile, the Durness practice is being served by a combination of locum GPs and GPs from the neighbouring Kinlochbervie and Scourie Medical Practice.

NHS Highland confirmed that it has a similar problem in Thurso, with a GP practice that it took over some time ago being covered by locums.

Locums however, are not a sustainable answer to the problem.

NHS Highland confirmed that a Freedom of Information request

had highlighted the fact that NHS Highland spent £937,204 on locums at the town's Riverbank Medical Practice from January 2013 to September 2014.

Ms Duff said: “We have had difficulties recruiting GPs in other parts of NHS Highland’s area, and particularly in the far north.

“We knew we would have to consider a new way of delivering GP services in North West Sutherland and had hoped the idea

of a multi-disciplinary team, including new GPs, would prove attractive to doctors.

"Having failed to attract GP applicants, we clearly need to continue our discussions with the local community and will be considering

all options.”

Durness is the latest rural area to suffer a lack of interest. The problems on the Isle of Arran are so acute that staff at Arran Medical Group dressed up as the A-Team for a promotional video to stir up interest in GP vacancies on the island.

According to a letter from Ms Robison, the nine GP surgeries being supported by NHS boards include a number in Forth Valley where the health board has had to step in because vacancies for doctors could not be filled.

She has said it is legitimate for boards to run practices for a number of reason, including a practice designed specifically for the homeless in Edinburgh. But Scottish Labour's spokesman Dr Richard Simpson claimed the true figure was higher.