Headlines: April 28th, 2009

People in rural areas face the risk of not having access to public services at times in their lives when they need them most, according to a senior Government advisor. Dr. Stuart Burgess, the Government’s Rural Advocate and Chair of the Commission for Rural Communities is in Northumberland today as part of a study looking at important life events, including developing cancer, suffering a stroke, losing a job, becoming a young carer or having a baby

During the two-day visit he will see first-hand how people cope with these events and he said, “I will be reporting what I see and hear back to Government, and recommending action to policy makers to help sustain the rural economy, rural communities and those people in very real need of access to the highest quality health services”

He said that while health outcomes for people in rural areas were generally better than for those in towns and cities it did not mean there were not problems and getting physical access to the right services could be a challenge. “We wouldn’t expect in the treatment of cancer, for example, to see an oncology unit on every village green but we are calling on health providers to pay greater attention to delivering cancer services closer to people’s homes, wherever possible,” he said.

Innovative ideas were also needed to support stroke survivors because after-stroke care was extremely scarce in rural areas. Meanwhile, support for young carers in rural often fell between different health, education and social services and opportunities for young carers to get together were few and far between. In the countryside transport difficulties and problems of isolation were coupled with the under-recognised caring responsibilities that children took on.

Dr. Burgess is also looking at maternity services in rural areas which, he said could be patchy, and at current concerns over job loss in rural areas.