DDA advisor Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con) has raised the issue of rural-proofed healthcare policy in a debate on Primary and Community Care: Improving Patient Outcomes.
In her submission, Baroness McIntosh suggested that two challenges lie at the heart of the debate: the often-overlooked rural aspect of health policies, and conflict between primary and secondary healthcare.
In her statement to the Lords, she highlighted that some 15 per cent of the population live in an area served by dispensing doctors, and she asked: “How do the Government intend to deliver healthcare in those settings on the same basis as in urban settings?”
She added: “Policy which delivers at scale must recognise the challenges of… rural [settings].” As an example, she said that that the preference for large vaccination centres run directly by the NHS that do not work in rural areas.
In addition, she noted that the digitalisation of the health service in rural settings “has not been a huge success” due to rural connectivity problems.
Other issues include the lack of an electronic prescription service for dispensing patients, GP pay and recruitment concerns, and the dysfunctional systems of drug reimbursement.
Responding, Lord Kamall, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care, said that rural connectivity was “widely recognised at the top of the NHS”.
He added: “The Government must do more. We clearly understand that. Maybe we are not doing it quickly enough, but we must look at the whole system and the roles as defined, while ensuring that it is not “one size fits all”.