Up to £1.5 million will be invested to find new solutions to rural healthcare in Scotland, the government has announced.
The money will be used to explore how sustainable health and care services can be created, in collaboration with local communities.
One fifth of the Scottish population lives in a rural area, with a significant amount living in remote areas.
Scotland’s Public Health Minister Michael Matheson said: “It has become increasingly difficult to recruit and retain health and care professionals to the traditional models of providing healthcare in remote areas, and this scheme will play a vital role in helping to develop long-term solutions that meed the healthcare needs of rural communities.”
Matheson said the funding could also help create new models for testing in urban areas.
NHS Highland is testing a model which involves the community hospital and three local GP practices providing round-the-clock care, as well as an enhanced ambulance response.
Other areas have set up multi-practice models which allow GPs from several practice to work together with nurses to provide care across the local area.
Theresa Fyffe, director of the Royal College of Nursing Scotland, said: “Everyone, regardless of where they live, should be able to quickly gain the health advice and treatment they need. So long as that healthcare is safe and effective, it should not matter who provides it or how it is delivered.
“Today’s announcement is an important first step and provides a real opportunity for nurses, as well as GPs, to deliver innovative and accessible healthcare services that meet the needs of rural communities.”