April Edition of Casebook from the Rural Health and Care Alliance

April 2024 Edition

In this edition of Casebook it’s all about events! Whether they be past or still to come, online or in person there’s plenty on offer from grassroot rural health inequalities to Space Medicine, check out the articles below to find out more and how you can secure free access. With election season looming at some point this year we also feature the Dispensing Doctors’ Association manifesto and findings from a recent All-Party Parliamentary Group on Dementia. Read on to find out more…
Tackling the postcode lottery of dementia diagnosis in rural England

The recent report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Dementia, "Raising the Barriers", funded by Alzheimer's Society, reveals a troubling postcode lottery affecting the timeliness and quality of dementia diagnoses across England, particularly in rural and deprived regions.

The report highlights a stark reality: where you live significantly influences the likelihood of receiving a timely and accurate dementia diagnosis. With diagnosis rates in some areas soaring above 80% and plummeting to just over 40% in others, the gap reflects deep-rooted inequalities that leave thousands without the crucial support they need to navigate this challenging condition.

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated an already dire situation, causing a noticeable drop in diagnosis rates from 67.6% to 61%, a figure that has struggled to recover. This decline has real-world implications, leaving approximately 257,390 individuals living with dementia without an accurate diagnosis or the essential support it brings.

The report, drawing on insights from over 2,300 individuals living with dementia, healthcare professionals, and academics, highlights the multifaceted barriers faced by those in rural and deprived communities. From limited transportation options to a general reluctance to seek diagnosis, the road to recognition of dementia symptoms is fraught with obstacles that go beyond mere geographical isolation. Such barriers not only delay diagnosis but also exacerbate the stigma and misunderstanding surrounding dementia, making the journey even more isolating for those affected and their families.

Innovative solutions and best practices do exist, demonstrating that improvement is not just possible but achievable with concerted effort. Examples of success, such as community-led awareness programs and dementia-friendly initiatives, shine a light on the path forward, offering hope and a blueprint for replication across the NHS. These initiatives are not only about improving numbers; they're about transforming lives, ensuring that individuals living with dementia, regardless of their postcode, have access to the diagnosis and support they deserve.

The report's recommendations are a clarion call to action, urging the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, NHS England, and Integrated Care System leaders to prioritise dementia diagnosis, improve data collection, and foster a culture of learning and improvement across the healthcare system. By taking a whole-system approach and embracing the voluntary, community, and social enterprise sector, we can bridge the gap between rural and urban healthcare access.

WHO Europe Centre for Primary Health Care Webinar

Don’t miss this fantastic opportunity to attend a European wide webinar on Primary Health Care: Bridging rural access gaps for greater equity featuring Professor John Wynn Jones – a National Centre for Rural Health and Care Board Director. Register here.

DDA launches 2024 election manifesto

As the election campaign begins in earnest, creating a sustainable NHS will be a key election issue.  The Dispensing Doctors’ Association invites election candidates to work with the DDA to answer the following calls to action:

Rural Proofing

  1. Medicines optimisation services: Rural patients to have equitable access to medicines services that support health and best use of medicines, irrespective of their proximity to access to a community pharmacy
  2. Full funding for NHS IT: Full NHS funding to recognise the benefits to patients, the practice and the NHS of NHS IT services such as the Electronic Prescription Service
  3. Local commissioning: Give local NHS organisations the freedom to commission services that rural people need

Sustainable Foundations

  1. A fair GP contract that recognises the increased costs of service deliver in rural areas
  2. A fair dispensary pay deal that rewards rural practices for meeting the increasing pharmaceutical needs of the rural ageing population
  3. NHS clinicians in the driving seat of NHS policy

For more information read the Full DDA manifesto and Summary.

Space Medicine – free, in person lecture

Join the University of Central Lancashire on the 22 May at 6pm for an out-of-this-world experience exploring the fascinating field of Space Medicine.

Professor Stuart Maitland-Knibb, Director of the National Centre for Remote and Rural Medicine, will be introducing Dr Peter Hodkinson, member of the European Space Agency Medical Board and Head of Aerospace Medicine at King's College London.

Get an insight into the role of space doctors, learn about the impact of space exploration on the human body and explore the impact on human physiology at the Final Frontier.

This insight will allow health professionals practising on earth to see what is possible. Extreme medics, remote and rural practitioners and non-medical staff alike can learn how to give advice and what can be done under instruction, even with a nine-minute comms delay.

Whether you're an aspiring astronaut or medic or just a curious earthling, this talk has something for everyone. Grab your spacesuit and join us for an unforgettable adventure.

Book you space here

Calling all Directors of Public Health in rural and coastal areas

Nigel Edwards, Chair of the National Centre for Rural Health and Care and Dr Matt Tyrer, Director for Public Health, Cheshire East Council will be co-chairing a session on Thursday 2 May from 2-3.30pm on Rural Public Health inequalities.

The purpose of the meeting is for Directors of Public Health and Public Health leads in rural and coastal communities across England to come together to:

  • Share ideas and current areas of work
  • Explore the potential for an ongoing group to work on issues and explore solutions in more detail
  • Consider whether there would be value in some on-going collaboration in this area for sharing good practice and possibly engaging in dialogue with policy makers and national bodies

If you’d like to attend the event and haven’t received joining instructions already, please email nadine.trout@sparse.gov.uk

Improving access and engagement - webinar resources

Nigel Edwards, Chair of the National Centre for Rural Health jointly hosted an event on the Monday 25 March looking at Improving access and engagement for rural and coastal communities. It was great to see so many Rural Health and Care Alliance members in attendance.

The webinar brought together insights and trust-led case studies from:

  • Herefordshire and Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust,
  • Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust,
  • and NHS Lincolnshire Talent Academy and United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust.

And explored the barriers to improving access to health services in rural areas, ways and processes for trusts and systems to engage with coastal communities, and practical steps to improve recruitment and retention of NHS staff in rural and coastal areas.

You can watch a recording of the webinar and download slides from the event here

We’d love to hear from you - share what you’re proud of
If you have something, you would like us to feature in a future edition, please let us know by clicking here to send us an email.

Spread the word
If you know of other organisations that you think would benefit from joining the Rural Health & Care Alliance, please click here to email us and let us know.


Up to date news on Health and Care
The Rural Services Network provides a useful source of themed news content and data. Check out the latest news on Health & Wellbeing and Vulnerability, where you’ll find articles on a diverse range of rural issues affecting rural communities. You might also find this research on Over 65 Population Projections useful too.

Latest from RSN Member Insights
RSN Member Insights is the place to discover the statistics that define communities within our membership.  It is regularly updated with new analyses, and these will be highlighted in the 'What's New' section of the RSN's Weekly Rural Bulletin. The Rural Bulletin also provides a selection of the most rurally topical news items, so do subscribe and encourage your colleagues to subscribe to what is an invaluable weekly periodical.

To make a suggestion of data that would benefit you by being included in the Member Insights section, please email Dan Worth, our Research and Performance Analyst, at dan.worth@sparse.gov.uk.

The Rural Health & Care Alliance is a membership organisation administered by the Rural Services Network on behalf of the National Centre for Rural Health & Care

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