Dr Kate Dawson’s practice on Benbecula took five years to attract a new GP, so she agreed that action was needed on recruitment.
Dr Dawson of the Scottish Rural Medicine Consortium, said: “You have really quite small practices scattered across very large areas.
“They have one maybe two GPs in many of them. If you can’t recruit it means the whole future of the practice is at stake.
“So it is a high risk feeling that, if you can’t recruit, you might be responsible for depriving a large number of people of access to medical care.”
Dr Dawson said the pressure on doctors working in a small rural team meant that there was the temptation to take early retirement.
She added: “You have a lot of people going at 55, who with a bit of extra support could have gone on longer. Working out how to retain rural GPs is a real challenge.”
Dr Dawson said her nearest secondary care hospital is in Stornoway, which required patients to take a flight. GPs in her practice managed the local Uist and Barra community hospital.
She added: “That means we have extended roles.
“Finding GPs who are willing to work out-of-hours, who are willing to work in community hospitals, who are willing to manage A and E and acute presentations as well as standard general practice stuff – that’s difficult.”
Other challenges included access to training, lack of employment opportunities for spouses and finding accommodation for new recruits.
She said: “It is a brilliant job, but it is difficult to recruit to and, if you are not supported, then it can become a difficult job to stay in.”