Residents on a small west coast island will hear about proposals for the future of their out-of-hours medical care at a meeting tonight.
NHS Highland bosses are travelling to Raasay to speak to the 170-strong community about problems in recruitment and plans to deal with the crisis.
While there is a nurse on the island every day of the week, overnight cover is only provided on Saturdays and residents claim that is impacting on island life.
Lloyd Gudgeon, development officer for Raasay Development Trust, said: “It is very difficult to encourage businesses to invest here or people to move here if the basic services are being removed.
“Millions of pounds of public money have been spent on the new harbour, the new community hall, and the Raasay House refurbishment and all that will be wasted if NHS Highland seeks to save a few thousand by cutting the nurse cover.”
The island has had a resident nurse since the 19th century, most recently based at Raasay Clinic in Inverarish village.
The clinic was opened by NHS Highland in 2011 and provides built-in overnight accommodation for a nurse, which has been virtually unused since July, leaving lifesaving equipment and medication inaccessible out of hours.
Ian Blackford, SNP MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, said: “It is completely unacceptable that the community of Raasay should be left without any nursing cover and this is something that NHS Highland should have planned for appropriately.”
Tracy Ligema, NHS Highland’s deputy director of operations for north and west, said: “This is absolutely not a question of money.
“The situation on Raasay is similar to that in many remote and rural communities, where healthcare provision has been reliant on a model of service that is not sustainable.
“Against a background of well-publicised difficulties we and other health boards are facing in recruiting and retaining staff in remote and rural areas, we have to devise new ways of working, and will be investigating a range of options for the provision of out-of-hours cover on Raasay.”
Ms Ligema said the heal board had received no response to two rounds of advertisements for two community nursing vacancies on Raasay, and had also not been able to recruit bank staff.