Terms of Reference

Context

Rural communities face particular issues in accessing healthcare. These issues include:

  • Dispersed communities meaning that people have limited access to services and have to travel further to access basic healthcare;
  • Smaller GP practices and other health centres, meaning that staff may feel professionally isolated and removed from opportunities for professional development;
  • A greater reliance on volunteer services;
  • Population demographics that include relatively more older people than in urban centres;
  • Poor quality broadband and mobile infrastructure.

The Cumbria Rural Health Forum was formed in September 2013 with a mission to maximise the health of rural communities through the discovery, creation, development and sharing of evidence-based strategies, best-practice, tools and techniques that support the effective and efficient delivery of public health, health and social care in rural areas. The forum seeks to achieve this by forming a network of organisations interested in and responsible for delivery of health and social care in rural areas.  The forum is looking to provide leadership and to work strategically in developing common themes around rurality to improve the quality and availability of healthcare services in Cumbria.

The vision of the Rural Health Forum is that this learning is made visible, shared and used within the healthcare infrastructure of Cumbria and is also made available to the wider world of healthcare. We will use this forum to avoid duplication and gaps in services, identify opportunities for joint implementation through projects and shared activities and to provide communications, knowledge sharing and educational support infrastructure for isolated professionals and voluntary groups.

Priorities for 2014

The priorities are to establish a virtual infrastructure for the forum, formalise and plan a series of networking workshops, meetings and project sub groups. The first theme that the group has chosen to develop is digital technologies to support remote consultations, telehealth and telecare. In 2014, the group will develop the Cumbria Strategy for Digital Technologies in Health and Social Care. We will identify at least three joint implementation projects to take forward with funding from the partners and external grant sources.

Membership of the Rural Health Forum:

Membership is currently open to any organisation or representative body that that is interested in the mission and can add value to releasing it; either based in Cumbria, providing health and/or social care services to Cumbria, or planning to do so.  During 2014 a formal membership structure will be developed.

Wider stakeholder engagement:

We will engage directly with stakeholders and with bodies that represent the public, patients, carers and businesses to develop and deliver our strategy.  The learning we develop in rural health delivery issues will be made available to interested parties, academic and professional communities nationally and internationally.