“A crisis in countryside health care could be looming because of the number of older patients who are reluctant to “make a fuss” and seek out help, a new report suggests.
The Public Health England study warns that one in six areas with the worst levels of health and deprivation are in rural areas, with “pockets of real hardship” in areas assumed to be idylls.
Almost half of rural households are at least five miles away from a hospital, when 97 per cent of those living in cities have one close at hand. And 20 per cent were more than 2.5 miles from a GP surgery, compared with 2 per cent of those in urban areas.
“Rural areas have worse access in terms of distance to health, public health and care services,” the report says. “Longer distances to GPs, dentists, hospitals and other health facilities mean that rural residents can experience ‘distance decay’ where service use decreases with increasing distance”.
The report, written jointly with the Local Government Association, says councils are under increasing pressure as they attempt to meet the needs of an ageing rural population.
On average those living in rural areas are five years older than those living in cities.
Councillor Izzi Seccombe, Chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, said:
“We often think of rural areas as picture-postcard scenes of rolling green fields and farming land, yet this idyllic image is masking pockets of deprivation and poor health.
The stoic nature of some countryside dwellers could fuel pressures on services, because some were prone to put up with health complaints until they became serious, she suggested.
“The make do attitude and reluctance to make a fuss of some older rural residents means they may not seek out health care or treatment when they need it. This stores up worse problems for later on where they require far more serious and emergency care.”
Duncan Selbie, chief executive of PHE said the report “busts the myth that poverty, deprivation and ill health are confined to urban, inner city areas.”