An agency-type organisation dedicated to rural health matters with a Rural Health Commissioner is needed for Scotland, the Scottish Parliament is being told.
Such a commission would ensure that health boards offer ‘fair and reasonable’ management of rural and remote healthcare issues, petitioners to the Scottish Government have said in Public Petition number PEO 1845.
Responding to the petition, the Scottish Cabinet Secretary has noted the possibility of having a “person at the centre of decisions and a focus on return to community.” In addition, the response reaffirmed “local planning is expected to take account of the particular needs of these populations, and decisions on the provision of services will be based on ensuring fair and equitable access to services wherever this is possible.”
However, the petitioners, led by Gordon Baird, have said that despite the clear political will, effort and expenditure to improve rural and remote health, there is still consistent statistical and anecdotal evidence of wide variation in effectiveness and efficiency. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution for widely differing issues in dissimilar rural areas.
“The proposal for an agency organisation will connect the various educational and planning structures by taking on a function done seamlessly in (non-geographically challenged) urban areas,” say the petitioners. “This fragmented approach to care delivery is characteristic of rural public services and is why we feel in this particular case, a commissioner type role is required.”
The petition is being supported by the Dispensing Doctors Association, The Remote Practitioners Association of Scotland, The Scottish Countryside Alliance, Douglas Deans, Professor Philip Wilson (Director, Centre for Rural Health, Aberdeen University), Caithness Hospital Action Team and Galloway Community Hospital Action Group.