Stark levels of health inequality between rural and urban areas

An investigation by the APPG for Rural Health and Care and the National Centre for Rural Health and Care has found stark levels of inequality between rural and urban areas when it comes to health and social care services.

The report by MPs found that those living in rural or coastal communities have poorer access to health and social care services than those living in towns and cities, despite the ‘social duty to promote equality’ embodied in the NHS Constitution.

The APPG for Rural Health and Care says that a shortage of good quality data and ‘inappropriate data collection methods’ in rural areas has resulted in these places being underfunded. Therefore, rural local authorities are forced to spend a disproportionately higher share of their budget on these services and local council taxpayers have to fund more costs than their urban counterparts.

The urban-rural health and social care divide is also made worse by a shortage of professionally qualified staff, limited public transport, and poor broadband and network access in rural areas.

Anne Marie Morris , chair of APPG on Rural Health & Social Care, said: “The events of the last 18 months have led to a large number of people discovering the attraction of rural living and the lifestyle that it offers. Yet for the newcomers and part-time rural residents who have become full time converts, the realities of rural health provision will have become very apparent.

“Without clear changes in policy direction and decision-making, the situation will move from urgent to critical. As we have seen, undiagnosed and unaddressed health conditions usually end up resulting in higher costs, poorer health outcomes, poorer economic opportunity and, in every sense, a poorer community. Therefore, policy makers need to focus on how we design, commission and deliver health care in these areas. Our rural communities deserve better health and care. This report shows how we can make this happen.”

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