February 9, 2008

Doctor Breaks Silence Over Being ‘Driven Out’ of Surgery

A doctor has broken her silence on the way she was "driven out" of her Highland surgery, and claimed she was let down by health bosses.

Dr Maris Buchanan was forced to retire from the Pines Medical Centre at Acharacle, which she owns, following a long-running row which divided communities on the Ardnamurchan peninsula.

Yesterday, as she prepared to leave the west Highlands for a month's voluntary work in Uganda, the 59-year-old GP spoke exclusively to the Press and Journal.

She was the subject of a "fitness to practice" complaint made to the General Medical Council (GMC), which ruled there was no case to answer, allowing her to continue to practise.

Details of the allegation against her have never been made public.

But the GMC confirmed it had not been made by patients, nor did it involve medical malpractice. However, it did emerge that some of her six-strong staff at the medical centre told the GMC they believed she was ill.

Dr Buchanan had been advised not to comment while the issue was under investigation.

But yesterday she said: "I am relieved that the GMC has resolved the issue and allowed me to practise without restrictions. I am grateful for all the support I received from the community and further afield in the past year."

She added: "I had hoped to work in Ardnamurchan for at least another two years, possibly by working part-time. I would have liked to carry out the plan but it would rely on the support of NHS Highland. But that clearly is not possible given the current situation within the practice."

Dr Buchanan, who cared for 1,200 patients, added: "I very much regret I was forced to leave the practice without notice and with no opportunity to ensure continuity of the practice or forward planning. NHS Highland let me down and the current situation in the practice makes it impossible to return."

Dr Buchanan, who has a home at Salen in Lochaber, has been working as a locum but flies out to Uganda today to work for the fourth successive year alongside Fiona Ross, a former community nurse on the Arndamurchan peninsula.

She leaves behind divisions in the communities of Kilchoan, Acharacle and Strontian, where there was a campaign for her reinstatement.

Dr Bill Masson, a retired GP and spokesman for a group supporting Dr Buchanan, called for those who made the initial complaint to resign.

He added: "At the end of the day there must be reconciliation, but this can only be achieved by the resignation of the people who made the complaint. Only this action can facilitate the appointment of a new doctor."

Health board officials say they are hoping to interview a replacement GP around Easter, with the involvement of a community group.

NHS Highland said it is "working with the local communities to make arrangements for continuing primary care services in the area".

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