Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty’s Government whether they intend that rural proofing will be applied to the NHS Sustainability and Transformation Plans.
To which Lord O’Shaughnessy Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Health) replied:
NHS England is aware of Rural proofing: practical guidance to assess impacts of policies on rural areas, published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in March 2017.
All Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) build on the Five Year Forward View to present an overall strategy for their geographic footprint and identify the three to five key priorities required to realise their vision. This should take account of specific challenges facing each area, which could include a dispersed, rural population.
STPs have been in the public domain for several months. Partner organisations within each area are engaging both rural and urban communities on their plans and, where required by law, consulting on service change.
NHS England and NHS Improvement continue to provide ongoing support to each STP area. In September 2016, they published Engaging Local People: A guide for local areas developing Sustainability and Transformation Plans, which set out how STP areas should reach out to stakeholders in their areas. A copy of the guidance is attached.
The NHS is exploring ways to better adapt health provision for rural areas. For example, the vanguard covering Morecambe Bay Health Community is improving healthcare in a geographically isolated area by using a high definition telemedicine link between a general practitioner (GP) surgery in Millom and the accident and emergency (A&E) department in Barrow-in-Furness. This means when GPs can seek a second opinion as to whether a patient needs intensive treatment or can be treated in the community – they can call through and have an A&E specialist examine the patient. This means that over the 1,000 square miles that Morecambe Bay covers, patients can have access to expert opinion without having to travel further than their nearest GP.
On 31 March, Next steps on the NHS Five Year Forward View was published by NHS England. The document outlined a 10-point care and efficiency plan which will further contribute to improving the health outcomes of those living in rural areas. A copy of this document is attached.