Given the many misgivings that already exist in Yorkshire’s rural heartlands about a shortage of affordable housing and absence of reliable broadband, it speaks volumes that declining health services top the list of concerns expressed by residents.
For, while the political focus remains on the viability of A&E units and the ability of hospitals in major conurbations to meet the needs of patients as the NHS continues to come under unprecedented demand, policy-makers ignore countryside communities at their peril.
Not only is there a shortage of GPs but the centralisation of services – understandable in some respects – means there are patients, particularly the elderly and immobile, who are expected to travel significant distances for very basic appointments.
This has been self-evident in North Yorkshire for many years now where the diminution of services is, in fact, compromising the care of those people who live in coastal resorts or remote areas. They feel, with justification, that current provision, as it stands, is not commensurate with their health needs – or the hard-earned taxes that they pay – and this is reflected by the findings published by the Rural Services Network.
Yet, while farmers are optimistic that they have, at last, an Environment Secretary in Michael Gove who appears, thus far, to be responsive to their needs, the same cannot be said for those Whitehall departments responsible for key public services such as health, schools, transport and town hall finance.
Like previous administrations, the current Government, to its shame, continues to regard the countryside as an after-thought – the challenge is coming up with a more effective way of rural-proofing policies from