Published: 10/02/2005, Volume II5, No. 5942 Page 38

When Tobian Muir applied to become a locum in plastic surgery at South Tees Hospitals trust, he wasn't sure where he was going. 'I had to look up Middlesbrough on the map, ' he admits.

But since arriving from South Africa with his wife and son in March 2003, he is sold on the hospital, the trust and the area.

'We are in the almost unique position where we have pretty affordable housing in a good area in reach of the hospital and very little traffic in between.' His initial concerns about industrialisation were a long way from the reality. 'I feared I would have to live in an industrial set-up, but I live in a small village and have a 20-minute drive to the hospital. There is some beautiful countryside in the area. We are close to the North Yorkshire National Park and to the beach - we have done a lot of sightseeing.' He describes his circumstances as the 'best of both worlds' and feels like a local.

'The northerners were very friendly and I now feel part of the community. I would definitely not move to London.' It is not just the scenery he enjoys.

'There is very little politics in the department or the hospital as a whole.'

This absence of 'faction fighting', which in Tobian's experience creates problems in many units, means more time is spent actually doing his work.

'We are also in a unique position because the hospital is on a single site, and this makes for a good working environment.' He says there are some downsides, but nothing very significant.

'Middlesbrough is not a big city and it doesn't have a huge nightlife, but it is easy to drive to Newcastle and London is only three hours on the train.' He is also slightly perplexed by the intricacies of the NHS. 'There is a lot of bureaucracy. I spend a lot of time managing whereas in South Africa it is very hands-on all the time.' He has also experienced frustration gaining approval for a new treatment he brought to the UK. 'It has taken a year, but I have now presented it to congress.

Funding may be the next problem.' Despite these issues, he is committed to the area and is waiting for his locum post to become substantive.