NHS Highland is seeking to charter a boat to provide a new GP service on the Small Isles.
At present the remote islands are served by locum GPs staying on Eigg.
Ill residents of Canna, Muck and Rum have to travel to Eigg, or the doctor arranges to visit them at home using the public ferry service from Mallaig to the Small Isles.
This has been the situation since 2012, although NHS Highland said this was always intended to be a temporary arrangement.
Now the health board is inviting tenders for a contracted chartered boat service to transport “health professionals” between Armadale on Skye and each of the Small Isles.
From November 18, GPs and community team members will travel by boat service from Armadale. They will see patients on Eigg by appointment on Tuesdays and alternate Thursdays from 11am-3pm. Appointments will be available on alternate Thursdays on Muck, Rum and Canna between 11am and 3pm, depending on location.
The new model will consist of a combination of improved community resilience and local skills alongside a visiting service provided through NHS Highland’s new rural support team, led by two doctors based on Skye, Dr Clare Whitney and Dr Angus Venters.
There will be further support from community health services, including district nursing, remote and rural health and social care support workers. There will be the potential through tele-links for people to access services without having to travel.
Camille Dressler, secretary of the Small Isles Community Council, said: “There has been a certain amount of frustration in the Small Isles that we have such a variety of doctors to see and every time we have to explain our case and have to reiterate our medical history.
“We need to have stability in the system.
“It has taken a long time to arrive at a solution that seems to be mutually satisfactory. Obviously the people on Eigg are a little bit concerned that they will not have a GP resident on the island, but we appreciate the fact that changes in the role of GPs and the way GP services are run make this not sustainable.”
Gill McVicar, director of operations for NHS Highland’s north and west operational unit, said: “We are determined that Small Isles residents receive primary healthcare services in a way that is sustainable and which matches needs with resources, and feel that this trailblazing, innovative new model will deliver that.”