Covid response hits rural NHS services hard – report

Posted: December 14th 2020


I am thrilled that in partnership with the Nuffield Trust we have managed to achieve this exposure in the national press. This story tells us:

NHS patients in rural areas of England face extra long waits for treatment, according to a study.

The Nuffield Trust think-tank says urban areas benefited most from measures put in place to help the NHS cope with the coronavirus pandemic.

Researchers found rural hospitals now faced an uphill challenge when it came to restoring services to normal.

NHS England says that funding reflects the higher costs of delivering care in rural communities.

The Nuffield Trust report says while the number of Covid cases in rural areas was lower than in big urban centres, the pandemic's impact on services has been much greater.

It says the coronavirus crisis highlighted pre-existing problems facing rural trusts.

For example, it can be hard to recruit and retain doctors and nurses who are willing to work in smaller hospitals, which means trusts rely more heavily on expensive agency staff to fill gaps in rotas.

This, in turn, has a detrimental effect on the finances of hospital trusts which struggle to balance the books.

In addition, rural trusts often have only a limited capacity to treat any extra patients as they are often already very busy.

Prof Richard Parish, chair of the National Centre for Rural Health and Care, said: "We continue to be concerned that Covid has made a number of rural inequalities worse.

"There doesn't appear to be much short-term prospect of respite. When there is, we still have to make progress towards a level playing field.

"This would involve, for a start, reducing the reliance on agency staff in rural health settings, speeding up rates of hospital discharge and reducing waiting times for elective surgery."