by Kerry Booth - Rural Services Network Assistant Chief Executive
At times it feels so unreal and rather than search for rural health news as I usually do, it seems that every article I read is health and virus related. The RSN is the national champion for rural services, but how are health and care services impacted by Covid-19 and the lockdown differently in rural areas?
Older people make up a significant part of rural communities, meaning that whilst to date, on average mortality figures are higher in urban areas in the UK, if the virus were to take hold in rural areas, a greater % of the community are considered vulnerable and would be at risk. This article highlights the potential risk to rural communities.
Rural communities can experience difficulty accessing services during ‘normal’ life, supermarkets, pharmacies, and shops for other necessities are often located in rural ‘hub’ towns that serve a wide hinterland. The reduction of already minimal transport services can make accessing these for large numbers of older residents that are in lockdown difficult.
Many rural communities were still recovering from the aftermath of devastating flooding which had destroyed homes and businesses when the country went into lockdown.
Rural isolation has long been a concern for the RSN as the culmination of factors such as poor access to transport, lower than average wages and lack of facilities can create a particular form of rural vulnerability. Isolated in their homes, often far from neighbours, friends and family, rural residents are at greater risk of vulnerability. Despite progress in technology, many remote rural communities do not have the broadband or mobile connectivity that the rest of the country are now relying on for accessing medical advice, education, grants and support for businesses and even social contact with loved ones.
However, the resilience of rural communities has been shining through in recent weeks, we have been collecting stories of parish councils and community groups who are providing voluntary support to their communities with everything from shopping to collection of medicines to regular phone calls for isolated residents.
Mental health is so important during this time when we are isolated from our families and friends and usual support networks, organisations have put together plans in record time to support those in need, as featured here with one of our Rural Services Partnership members, Young Somerset.
The Rural Services Network will continue to urge Government to consider rural communities in the way they deal with the crisis, and when developing eventual plans for easing of restrictions, to ensure that the particular nature of rural communities and the services that they deliver are supported and policies are rural proofed and appropriate.
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