A Sutherland GP has spoken of his fears for GP services in the future in light of falling numbers of GPs in Highland.
Dr Andreas Herfurt is the larger-than-life, motor-cycle-riding, guitar-making local GP with a practice 15 minutes east of Bettyhill, in Armadale, for the past 20 years.
His practice is one of very few which maintains its own out of hours cover.
While German-born Dr Herfurt plans to retire in 2020, he expressed his fears for the generations to come.
He said: “I hate to sound negative, but I get the impression from year to year that it’s a spiral going downwards. I’m not saying we’re circling the drain but I can’t see things getting any better.”
Recent official statistics show that the number of GPs in NHS Highland has dropped from 416 to 398 in the past 10 years.
Dr Herfurt said the new GP contract adopted in April was geared towards urban areas, and could in the long term have a negative impact on rural areas.
He said: “Not so much in my generation, but it could certainly get very difficult for those who come in the next generation, our successors.
“Things started in change in 2004 when the previous contract came in and a lot of GPs gave up out of hours altogether. There are still only a handful of practices in Highland who do out of hours, and most of them in Highland.
“We gave up out of hours on the weekends, but we still cover our weekdays, and yes it can be a long week.
“It’s difficult to attract people into that, long hours and you’re not so much in a job, but a lifestyle.
“Compare that with regular hours and probably earning a lot more money at the same time in an urban area, so for a lot of young people coming into the job, that’s a no-brainer.
“For the future, we’re looking at alternative models and things we can do to provide a service which has other aspects to it than just the GP.”
An NHS Highland spokesman said a national GP shortage affected remote areas and that practices were trying to make the best use of doctor time and nurse-based services.