DEFRA has acknowledged the need for a new NHS formula that recognises the unique challenges of rurality.
In a new Rural Proofing in England 2020 report, ministers for environment, food and rural affairs note the endorsement by NHS funding advisors of the need for a new community services formula that better recognises rural geography, older populations and relative deprivation.
The report notes that the Advisory Committee on Resource Allocation has been considering the evidence for any additional adjustments relating to the costs of providing healthcare in remote areas for the past two years.
Current measures include: continued provision by small hospitals with 24-hour accident and emergency services, emergency ambulance costs to reflect longer journey times, and GP payments to account for increased geographical dispersion of registered populations. There is also the provision for rural PCNs to serve populations of less than 30,000 people. Further work is planned to investigate funding for providing home services, DEFRA says.
The report notes that more than 9.5 million people – around 17 per cent of the total population live in rural areas in England. It also documents wider rural support measures including, from September 2020, the new commercial, business and service use planning class, which enables premises to move between a wider range of uses, such as shops, offices, nurseries, health centre, without the need for a planning application.