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House of Commons Hansard
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Rural and Urban Communities: Health and Care Needs
08 May 2018
Volume 640
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8. Whether he has made a comparative assessment of the health and social care needs of rural and urban communities. [905165]

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The diverse health and social care needs of local communities are considered in this Government’s policy and implementation. We are actively supporting local areas, including through Public Health England’s joint work with the Local Government Association, providing evidence-based recommendations to tackle the different needs of rural communities.

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Would the Minister find it helpful to ask the national centre for rural health and care, shortly to be launched, to identify the specific challenges facing the providers of health and care in rural areas?

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The centre has already engaged with stakeholders to identify the issues and responses to the challenge of providing health and care in rural settings. The centre will focus on four areas—data; research; technology; and workforce and learning—and will work with partners to identify, scale up and promote the adoption of its activities across the public and private health sector to reduce health inequalities and improve the quality of life for all rural people.

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If the ministerial team want to learn about the comparison of health outcomes in urban and rural communities, they should come to Huddersfield, as we have both there. But what we want in Huddersfield is a great hospital, great GPs and a supportive community pharmacy network. When are we going to get them?

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I will address the point the hon. Gentleman makes about urban and rural health, as my constituency has the same situation. Obviously, there are specific challenges with regard to sparsity of population, which have to be tackled through the funding formula. The new national centre for rural health and care will address that.

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For people in my rural constituency, the value of services at Boston’s paediatric unit could not be higher. Does the Minister agree with me—and with what the Prime Minister said last Wednesday—that we should leave no stone unturned when it comes to making sure that we can recruit the paediatricians we need and sustain the services at Pilgrim Hospital?

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I am happy to associate myself with the comments of my hon. Friend and those of the Prime Minister. We should leave no stone unturned in making sure that we recruit enough paediatricians to support the service. I reiterate that every effort will be made to ensure that that happens.

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22. Scotland recruits many health professionals from overseas, and that is particularly important for the delivery of healthcare in rural areas. Does the Minister agree that Scotland needs overseas doctors and nurses? What representations has she made to the Minister for Immigration regarding the lifting of the tier 2 visa cap? [905180]

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The hon. Lady will understand that the impact on the workforce is of as much interest to us south of the border as it is to her. We continue to engage in representations with colleagues to address such matters.

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Northamptonshire has both rural and urban communities, but our biggest pressures are a rapid population increase because of house building and a big increase in the number of people who are, thank goodness, living to more than 80 years of age. Will the Minister ensure that those two issues are addressed in any future funding formula?

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My hon. Friend is quite right that when we allocate funds we have to make sure that we keep pace with population growth among both the early years and the older years, which is where the demand comes from.

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I call Karen Lee. No? The hon. Lady is a most confusing individual.

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I wanted to ask a supplementary to the question about Boston.

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Oh, well, blurt it out.

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23. Lincoln’s walk-in centre closed a few weeks ago and Boston’s paediatric department is threatened with closure. Does the Minister agree that cuts and privatisation in our NHS are damaging staff recruitment, retention and morale? [Interruption.] Ministers can shake their heads, but it is true: there are not enough doctors at Boston, which affects A&E and wider care delivery. [905181]

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I can add no more to what I have already said in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Boston and Skegness (Matt Warman). We will do everything we can to make sure that we can recruit sufficient paediatricians for that hospital.

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What plans does the Minister have to increase the role of community pharmacies in meeting the health needs of rural and urban communities? In 2016, the Government promised to develop an extended role for community pharmacies. In particular, they committed in the House that the national roll-out of a minor ailments scheme would be implemented by April 2018. Given that it is now May 2018 and that has not happened, and that there has been an overall reduction in services commissioned via community pharmacies in both rural and urban communities, will the Minister tell the House when exactly the Government intend to honour their commitment?

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The provision of community pharmacies is an important part of integrated primary care. We will continue to make sure that we direct sufficient resource to address the particular challenges caused by rural sparsity. I remind the hon. Lady of what we have already done: we spent £175 million from the Prime Minister’s challenge fund to transform GP access, and that is increasing access in areas such as north Yorkshire, Devon and Cornwall. We will continue to look into the particular challenges that rural communities face and make resources available.