A medical centre serving two North-east communities could be handed to new management after bosses failed to hire new staff.
NHS Grampian operates the An Caorann Medical Practice, which has about 5,300 patients between the villages of Aberchirder and Portsoy on its books.
It could now be contracted out to an independent firm who would bring in its own doctors.
The proposal comes after the NHS warned patients they would not be seen by their GP unless it was an emergency.
The “immediate emergency plan”urged patients to only call the practice if they needed to see someone that same day.
An NHS spokeswoman stressed that the move would not mean patients would be charged for medical care.
She said: “Most practices in Grampian operate as independent practices.
“This means they have a contract with NHS Grampian to provide general medical services with staff being employed by the practice rather than NHS Grampian.”