Doctor flown in from Venice for Highland Christmas

 
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LONDON, Jan 1 (Reuters) Health chiefs in Scotland flew an Italian doctor 1,000 miles from Venice to provide emergency cover during the Christmas holidays, according to reports today.

Dr Annibale Bertollo was paid more than 3,200 pounds to work five days at two remote practices in the Scottish Highlands after no doctors could be found in Britain, the Times said.

The National Health Service, funded by taxpayers, paid his air fare from Venice to Inverness, his accommodation and car hire, the newspaper said.

''On the face of it, it does seem strange to be bringing a doctor in from Italy,'' local doctor David Murray told the Times.

''But it is all to do with the new GP (family doctor) contracts that allow doctors to opt out of being on call out of hours.'' Bertollo arrived five hours late for work on the first day after getting lost. Bosses had to pay another doctor overtime to cover his absence, according to the Daily Record newspaper.

''I was paid very well,'' Bertollo was quoted as saying. ''That made up for working over Christmas and being away from my wife and family.'' Two other stand-in doctors, including another from Europe, were also hired through a recruitment agency by NHS Highland to cover practices, the Times said.

A spokeswoman for NHS Highland would not comment on the reports. ''It is the NHS board's responsibility to provide a service to meet the primary care needs of the population in the board area,'' the health board said in a statement.

REUTERS MS HT1835

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