Healthcare in Wales 'not as good in the countryside'

A nurse The conference about the future of health services in rural Wales is being held at Aberystwyth University

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People in rural areas do not receive as good a service from the NHS as people in towns and cities, claims the organiser of a healthcare conference.

Dr Glenys Williams, of Aberystwyth University, also claimed that fewer GPs were applying for jobs in rural areas.

The university is hosting the conference on the future of rural health services.

The Welsh government said it was committed to ensuring people in all areas could access health care.

Former Ceredigion MP Lord Elystan Morgan, who will chair the discussion, was asked in 2009 by the then Health Minister Edwina Hart to look into the provision of care in rural areas and how it could be improved.

Start Quote

We're getting fewer and fewer GPs applying for surgeries that operate in rural areas”

End Quote Dr Glenys Williams Aberystwyth University

The resulting report published a year later made a number of recommendations about how to improve rural healthcare.

It said doing nothing was not an option but it was essential to gain the trust and support of local communities.

The organiser of Wednesday's debate, Dr Williams, of the university's centre for Welsh legal affairs, said rural people did not receive the same care as those in urban areas.

Dr Williams said: "This is because of things like problems with travel, lack of public transport.

"GPs, for example, don't want to work in the country and we're getting fewer and fewer GPs applying for surgeries that operate in rural areas, and indeed many surgeries that operate in rural areas are closing because of that very problem."

Last month a family doctor service across parts of rural north Wales said it needed an urgent increase in GPs within 12 months.

Dr Phil White, secretary of the North Wales local medical committee, said current workloads for GPs were "unsustainable".

'Shortage of doctors'

Dr Williams said the conference, at Aberystwyth University's international politics main hall between 16:00 and 18:00 BST on Wednesday, would discuss Lord Morgan's report.

Dr Williams added: "Interest continues to be shown in the important issue of the delivery of healthcare services in rural Wales.

"This is especially pertinent in Ceredigion, where there has been protracted debate as to the future of Bronglais hospital and other cottage hospitals in the county.

"Debate also surrounds, for example, the shortage of doctors and dentists, out of hours services and the closure of rural surgeries.

"Matters have, of course, moved on since then, but this (Lord Elystan's) document remains the basis for continued discussion."

A Welsh government spokesperson said the health minister met with the Institute of Rural Health over the summer to discuss the particular issues facing rural communities.

"We are committed to ensuring that people in all parts of Wales, including those in living in isolated areas, are able to access the healthcare they need.

"While we expect the quality of services to be consistent across Wales, the ways in which services are designed and delivered will vary according to local circumstances."

The spokesperson said "exciting and cutting edge innovation" was being used by the NHS in rural areas, including telemedicine, which could also benefit urban areas.

"We are aware that there are workforce trend and recruitment issues in certain areas of the country that need to be resolved.

"We are working closely with health boards, GPC Wales and the Wales Deanery to develop innovative training and recruitment initiatives for GPs in Wales."

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