Rural areas missing out on healthcare

PATIENTS in parts of rural Suffolk could be missing out on the best health care because policies developed for urban areas do not work in the countryside.

PATIENTS in parts of rural Suffolk could be missing out on the best health care because policies developed for urban areas do not work in the countryside.

The claim comes after a study, released by the British Medical Association (BMA), rubbished the myth of the 'rural idyll'.

The study found that remoteness, lack of public transport and the centralisation of health services mean many of those living in rural areas have problems accessing care.

However a Suffolk health boss said that moves are being put in place to try to offer services closer to people's homes in rural areas.


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They study also pointed out that many people in rural areas suffered poverty and deprivation, increasing their chances of ill health.

Norman Foster, locality health improvement director for the east Suffolk PCTs, said: "The study is focusing on many of the issues that we have been working on for a long time.

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"If you ask someone who is very isolated in a rural area they are very well aware of the problems, but if you ask your statisticians they will say that areas of deprivation are those in inner cities and urban environments.

"In a rural area it's much more difficult to identify where the problems are because the degree of deprivation is hidden."

Mr Foster said the biggest problem faced by those in rural communities is access.

He said: "Wherever you go and whatever you do in a rural area like this, transport is one of the biggest issues.

"What we are trying to do is provide a better range of services closer to where people live. The more that we can prevent people becoming seriously ill, the less people will need to access the acute services which are generally based more centrally."

The report also found that recruiting and retaining staff is also a bigger problem in rural areas.

Mr Foster said: "One of the biggest factors affecting this is that there is not enough affordable housing around.

"A lot of NHS staff are not the best paid in the world. As such it means there's an issue around them finding somewhere to live."

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, the BMA's head of ethics and science, said: "Deprivation in rural communities has been ignored for a long time.

"There is a real case of the haves and the have-nots."

A Department of Health spokesman said it was committed to "rural proofing of its policies to help ensure that they take into account the needs of people living in rural areas".

n. Do you live in a rural area? What health services would you like to see? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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