WDP comment: Threat to surgeries is a threat to the rural community
If one was to imagine a place where David Cameron’s Big Society might just work, or even already exist, it would almost certainly be a rural community.
If one were to imagine a place where localism really might begin to make a difference – that same rural community might still be at the forefront of one’s mind.
The trouble is that rural communities are finding themselves under increasing and constant pressure.
Local shops, village churches, pubs, sports teams and local societies are closing or amalgamating in droves. Young people leave in search of work, or are forced to leave through lack of affordable housing.
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And increasingly towns and villages are losing the sort of community feel and spirit that made them such special places, so dearly cherished by those that grew up in them.
Living in rural parts of Somerset, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Dorset and Devon is not easy. Rocketing fuel prices, inadequate public transport and a lack of jobs, particularly for young people, have seen to that.
We understand too that small rural doctors’ surgeries across the West Country could be forced to close because of contract changes being forced through by the Government.
The warning comes from the Family Doctor Association amid growing disquiet among GPs over a move to switch £164 million of funding away from administrative duties to incentives for them to target certain medical conditions.
Dr Peter Swinyard, chairman of the association which represents more than 1,000 practices, said the changes would see smaller practices squeezed “until the pips squeak”.
Doctors in the region have already expressed their own concerns, with a survey revealing fears that two thirds of surgeries in the may struggle to remain viable after the changes.
There is also increased pressure on surgeries and community medical staff as a result of the transfer of some work out of the hospital sector.
If these fears are realised, there is little doubt that it will be the smallest, and remotest, rural surgeries that will be affected. There can be little doubt about that.
If any had to close, another vital “hub” would be lost to the community it serves, and patients would have to face the complications of travel, simply to see their GP.
We must all hope that our surgeries can find ways to operate under the new contract, and that more damage is not done to the hearts of our rural communities. The situation is critical.