Casebook June 2023

Casebook June 2023

Posted: June 20th 2023


In Casebook this month; cost of living crisis, the covid inquiry in action and a hope it has a spatial dimension, staff shortages, dumped PPE and young and lonely as a rural way of life. In Other stuff a list of our activities to date.

Morrisons and M&S follow rivals to cut food prices

Rural dwellers challenged by the cost of living crisis can take some heart from this story. The links between deprivation and poor health are well known and this story helps reinforce that point. It tells us:

Morrisons and M&S have become the latest supermarkets to cut the price of basics as retailers face pressure to do more to tackle soaring living costs.

The chains will cut the price of many goods including minced beef, tomatoes and Greek yoghurt.

It follows similar cuts by Tesco, Sainsbury's and Aldi and comes as food price inflation is stubbornly high.

Retailers have been accused of not passing on falling wholesale costs to consumers, but they deny profiteering.

Morrisons, the UK's fifth largest supermarket chain, said the latest round of price cuts was its sixth this year and the reductions would remain in place for eight weeks.

It says more than 47 popular products including squash, cereal and pitta bread will be cut by on average 25%, to help with the cost of living

M&S said it was cutting the price of more than 70 family staples, including beef mince and chickpeas, and locking in previously made reductions on other goods.

Sainsbury's, Tesco, Aldi and Lidl have all reduced bread, milk and butter prices in the past few months.

Covid Inquiry: Mistake not to consider range of pandemics - David Cameron

I have been listening to a podcast on BBC Sounds about the origins of the virus. Really interesting stuff. I don’t think there has been enough consideration from a rural perspective about the impacts of Covid in the UK. This article tells us:

Former Prime Minister David Cameron has said it was a "mistake" not to consider different types of diseases when preparing for future pandemics.

Giving evidence to the Covid Inquiry, Mr Cameron said "group think" meant his government did not focus enough on pandemics other than flu.

He also denied that his government's austerity policies damaged the UK's ability to cope with Covid.

The inquiry is currently considering preparedness ahead of the pandemic.

George Osborne and Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor and health secretary under Mr Cameron, will give evidence to the inquiry later this week.

Questioned by the inquiry's lawyer Kate Blackwell KC, Mr Cameron said: "Much more time was spent on pandemic flu and the dangers of pandemic flu rather than on potential pandemics of other, more respiratory diseases, like Covid turned out to be.

"This is so important - so many consequences followed from that."

Doctor and dentist shortage in Southend highlighted

An old refrain, filtered through the lens of Southend but deeply relevant to rural places, this article tells us:

Healthwatch Southend said it was being approached by local people about access "almost every day".

A new plan to improve services is being drawn up for NHS primary healthcare services in the area where there is a £46.4m deficit.

"There are real issues at the current time," Healthwatch's chief officer, Owen Richards, told the city council's Health and Wellbeing Board.

"GP access needs to be updated. There is a reference in there around a plan to improve access to GPs, but there is a bit of gap in here for me on that because that is something local people talk to us about almost every day - access to services, general practice and dentistry."

The board was discussing the Mid and South Essex Joint Forward Plan, which has highlighted a number of serious problems within primary healthcare services.

Mr Richards was also concerned that digital devices were excluding some patients: "There is a lot of emphasis understandably about digital within the report that will help a lot of people - it will not help others.

"There is something in the language we use in the system about improving access, some of which could be through digital routes, but we almost seem to focus more on the solution rather than the issue that there are problems of access at the moment."

The council's director of public health, Krishna Ramkhelawon, said: "I think it's imperative to remind ourselves that the local NHS are in an unsustainable position financially and that is probably one of the driving forces in enabling us to do things differently.

Mysterious pile of ‘dumped’ PPE angers people in New Forest

All I can really find to say here is “astounding”…..

The “dumping” of hundreds of thousands of pieces of unused personal protective equipment near a nature reserve on the edge of the New Forest has mystified and angered local people.

But the council has revealed the giant pile of boxes containing medical aprons in Calmore, Hampshire, will be recycled into plastic bags.

Councillors said they reacted with horror after the discovery was made public at a Hampshire county council (HCC) meeting last week. It is not yet known if the items are linked to the Covid-19 pandemic, but the council has asked the Environment Agency to investigate.

The large-scale discovery in Calmore, near Testwood Lakes Nature Reserve, came after an investigation by New Forest District Council (NFDC) into use of land at Little Testwood Farm Caravan Park.

‘Socially stunted’: how Covid pandemic aggravated young people’s loneliness

This article from the Guardian gives us pause for thought. Wearing a different hat I have conducted 3 surveys linked to the impact of covid on young people in rural settings and there is evidence to suggest that young people in rural areas have been really adversely affected in terms of their health and well-being. This article tells us:

Riley is one of many young people caught in a cycle of loneliness in the wake of the pandemic and amid the cost of living crisis. Just under one in 10 people aged 16 to 29 reported feeling lonely often or always, according to an analysis of recent Office for National Statistics (ONS) data by the Campaign to End Loneliness – the highest level of all age groups.

This is set against a backdrop of chronic loneliness levels among all age groups, which rose during the pandemic and never really came down again. At the peak of lockdown in late 2020 and early 2021, levels reached 7.2%, and were still at 7.08% two years later. In 2018, the figure had been 5%.

Prof Andrea Wigfield, the director of the centre for loneliness studies at Sheffield Hallam University, says that while social isolation is an objective measure, loneliness is a “subjective, negative feeling”.

Comparison to others plays a part, Wigfield explains, suggesting a link to the role of social media. “The thing that influences loneliness is the social connection [people] desire and what they perceive their peers to have,” she says. “With young people, there’s an expectation that you have an active social life.”

Other Stuff

The National Centre has a pivotal awayday to look at the opportunities for future development later this week. I have produced this summary of key actions since 2017 and I thought it would make a fitting Other Stuff for this month:

  • Research: Rural Funding Formula Commissioned from Nuffield Trust; Rural Workforce Challenges University of Birmingham; UEA Rural Deprivation Index
  • Members: 136 organisations
  • Rural Proofing working with Rural England, Northern Ireland version of toolkit, action learning partnership with RCCs (Devon, Gloucestershire, Shropshire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire)
  • Action Research: Dispensing Doctors Association; Lincolnshire COOP/Lincolnshire Lives and Wye Valley NHS Foundation Trust
  • EMAHSN Innovation Exchange: 300 delegates, 2017-2020 5 seminars: Community Health Hubs; Social Prescribing; Innovation and Rural Health; Delivering Services Differently; Rural Health and Care; 2022 participant Roger Strasser Lecture
  • Partnerships: Rural Services Network; Rural Coalition; Rural England; NHS Confed; Lincolnshire International Institute for Rural Health
  • Parliamentary Inquiry: 89 witnesses, 14 sessions, 12 recommendations
  • HEE Funding to support: Development of a curated network for innovative primary care centres which are community focused 2) Creation of a knowledge exchange of good practice and problem solving focused on the rural challenges associated with the interface between health and care; 3) Creation of a rural mental health network
  • Mablethorpe demonstrator facility: partner in £8.6 million Campus for Future Living – referenced 2021 CMO report – also host to £240K Care worker pipeline bid (partners East Lindsey District Council and RWM Community Fund)
  • Consultations: House of Lords Select Committee on Rural Economy; Department of Health and Social Care Policy School; Rural College of GPs Rural Committee Conference; NHS Interim People Plan; Hewitt Review, HoL Select Committee ICBs, Major Conditions