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Rural Residents left waiting for transfers from healthcare

The RSN is constantly reviewing statistics and policy to ensure rural areas receive their fair share. Recently we have taken a look at hospital discharge times and yet again rural areas are losing out. 

Examining recently released data on Delayed Transfer of Care and Referral to Treatment Waiting Times, the RSN has found that rural residents are experiencing greater delayed transfers of care compared to urban residents.

A delayed transfer of care happens when a patient is medically fit for discharge from acute or non-acute care and is still occupying a bed.

Patients from predominantly rural areas experienced longer delays for both acute and non acute care.

  • Predominantly Rural Residents experience 3.19 delayed days per 1000 resident population compared to 2.51 for predominantly urban and 2.75 for England overall.

There was no difference in the providing organisation as delays were greater for Predominantly Rural areas whether the responsible organisation was the NHS or Social Care.

Why are rural residents waiting?

When exploring why rural residents are experiencing delays for NHS organisations, the greatest delay was due to people waiting for a care package in their own home.

The RSN has recently published a report along with the County Council Network on the State of Social Care in County and Rural Areas which can be accessed at this link:

Click here to view State of Social Care in County and Rural Areas Report

This study found that Government funded support for adult social care service costs is significantly lower in county and rural areas.  In addition, recruiting adult social care staff to work in rural areas can be more difficult.  The higher average age alongside ageing population projections within county and rural areas places a high burden on these local authorities.

In terms of delayed days per 1000 residents the rate of delay was 0.97 in Predominantly Rural Areas compared to 0.38 in Predominantly urban areas. Delays due to awaiting Residential Home placement or availability was 0.41 in rural areas compared to 0.28 in urban. Awaiting Nursing Home placement or availability was 0.38 in rural compared to 0.34 in urban.

Rural residents waiting longer for treatment

The RSN has also examined Referral to treatment (RTT) waiting times for consultant-led elective care which include patients waiting to start treatment at the end of November 2021 and patients who were treated during November 2021.

The Predominantly Rural situation was worse than that found for all providers where

  • 19 out of 20 patients started treatment that involved admission to hospital within 75 weeks for the rural situation compared to 67 weeks across England.
  • 19 out of 20 patients started treatment that did not involve admission to hospital within 49 weeks with Predominantly Rural providers, 4 weeks more than the 45 weeks for all providers.

So not only are rural residents delayed in being discharged once their treatment has finished, they also experience longer delays to start their treatment in the first place.

The health and wellbeing of the nation’s population is as relevant to and important for rural communities as it is to those who live elsewhere.  They deserve access to health and care services and should not be disadvantaged simply due to where they live.

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