Wales announces £825,000 for projects to improve local rural services

A range of projects to benefit from the Rural Health Innovation Fund have been announced by the Health Minister Edwina Hart during a visit to a rural foot care clinic in Maes Elyfryn, Llandeilo.

The £1million Welsh Assembly Government fund aims to improve access to health and social care services in rural areas through the use of new technology, collaboration between services, local innovation and national coordination, recognising the important role that local people and communities play in this.

The Rural Health Plan, a key One Wales commitment, looks at how a range of services including hospitals, GP practices, district and community nursing, therapy services, palliative care and community mental health support can be delivered most effectively within rural communities.

Thirteen local projects are to receive a share of £525,000 from the fund, with a further £200,000 for the Hywel Dda and Powys Health Board areas to pilot integrated models of care between health and social care to support rural communities. £100,000 will be allocated for national coordination and evaluation of the rural innovation projects and the remaining funding will be used to support innovation emerging from the Rural Health Implementation Plan.

The projects to be funded include:

In North Wales:
•A community-based service for people experiencing suicidal thoughts following self-harm;
•A tele-rehabilitation video conferencing system to allow those in rural areas to access advice on issues such as the delivery and maintenance of wheelchairs;
•Help for people to manage their health conditions and support care requirements in their own homes and Community outreach services to deliver a range of health services into rural areas.

In Mid-Wales:
•Patients in Powys will be able to access ‘hospice at home’ palliative care services;
•Additional training will be provided to nurses to become emergency nurse practitioners at Llandrindod Hospital with telemedicine links to Hereford Hospital and Powys out-of-hours services;
•An electronic link will be set up between the x-ray department at Llandrindod Hospital and larger district general hospitals to speed up access to diagnosis.

In South and West Wales:
•Three rural community ‘hubs’ at Aneurin Bevan Health Board to engage local people in community health and well being, provided through volunteer village wardens and a home visiting scheme;
•Investment to allow paramedics in Powys and the Hywel Dda Health Board areas to more efficiently refer patients to local services and support, particularly those provided by volunteers;
•Support for rural carers in Ceredigion (including a survey of existing services).

All Wales:
•Telemedicine use will be extended across rural areas of Wales to improve quality of care and keep health care local, reducing travel time for patients and health professionals;
•Community pharmacies will pilot a range of innovative services to maximise their role in the community in South Gwynedd, Powys and West Wales.
The projects were recommended by the Rural Health Implementation Group following an evaluation of the bids received.

Edwina Hart said:

“The range of projects funded will help develop new ways of providing services, improving access to services for those living in rural areas. I expect that people will see a real difference as these projects are developed.

“I look forward to receiving further recommendations over the coming months on how to utilise the remaining funding.”

Elin Jones, Minister for Rural Affairs, said: “Providing integrated and accessible health and social care services in way which reflects the particular conditions and characteristics of rural Wales is a key goal for our rural health plan.

“The many innovative projects announced today will make a real difference to improving the accessibility of health services to rural Wales.”