Scotland’s Public Health Minister today said the government was working with the royal colleges in an attempt to overcome difficulties in recruiting consultants and other medical staff in rural areas.
Michael Matheson told the public session of the NHS Highland Annual Review in Fort William that they hoped this would ensure a better supply of staff in future years.
But he admitted it could take more than 10 years for this to have an effect.
The minister was responding to a question from Stewart MacLean, of the Belford Action Group, who asked what support the government was providing to help overcome the recruitment problems.
Mr MacLean also pointed out that his group had highlighted the difficulties more than 10 years ago and said it was difficult to see how anything had improved in that time.
Mr Matheson said he had not been in post at that time, adding that there was a global difficulty with recruiting some specialities, such as paediatrics.
He said: “Some of the work we are taking forward at a national level is working with bodies such as the royal colleges.
“We need to work in partnership with them to try to meet some of these challenges.”
The minister added that they needed to encourage more people to train as generalists, as there was currently an increasing focus on specialisation.
He said: “We are doing a lot of work just now to try to address some of these issues, but a lot are issues that will not be addressed overnight.
“Some will take a decade plus to deal with because of the way medical training is set up.”
NHS Highland Chairman Garry Coutts said the health board was trying to attract consultants from overseas and was “looking as widely as possible”.
He said: “We also need to look at the training programmes that people are undertaking so they are going to be fit, able and willing to work in rural general hospitals.”
He added that they were trying to make the jobs “as exciting as possible” by including opportunities for research and education.
Mr Coutts said they were working very closely with the government in all these areas.