Health chief admits healthcare for rural communities is a 'tricky' issue

Tackling healthcare inequalities while the trend is for centralising services away from rural areas is ‘tricky’, a health chief has admitted.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 25 June, 2019, 13:06
Picture c/o Pixabay

The discussion about ensuring rural and disadvantaged communities have the right access came during a meeting of Northumberland County Council’s health and wellbeing board.

Siobhan Brown, chief operating officer of NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group was setting out how its plan for this year will help to meet the goals of the Northumberland Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy.

David Thompson, chairman of Healthwatch Northumberland.

There are four themes in the strategy: Giving children and young people the best start in life; Empowering people and communities; Tackling some of the wider determinants of health; Adopting a whole system approach to health and care.

David Thompson, chairman of Healthwatch Northumberland, which represents the views of patients, asked about the balance between access for rural and disadvantaged communities against the rationalisation and centralisation of services which is taking place.

“I can’t deny it’s a tricky one,” said Ms Brown. “It’s a combination of understanding what people need and working with them.”

Mr Thompson responded: “I sometimes think that when strategic decisions are made, they are made with majority in mind and the disadvantaged become more disadvantaged.”

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Coun Scott Dickinson, Labour’s deputy leader and ward member for Druridge Bay.

Coun Scott Dickinson said the whole healthcare system ‘feels much more joined-up’, but added Mr Thompson’s point on wider access was ‘crucial’.

He said: “I’m not suggesting every community can have a hub, but we need to support communities who genuinely want to stay fit, healthy and well.”

Mr Thompson added: “I’m sure we are all delighted that prevention is now very, very high on the agenda. Belatedly, but it is very welcome.”

Members were later updated on the new dental contract for Amble and Rothbury, which means services will not be provided from Hadston as they were before.

Coun Dickinson said hundreds took part in a consultation, but had been ignored.