Social care ‘hubs’ and better local representation are two potential solutions to rural social care challenges, according to a new Rural Proofing for Health Toolkit.
Published by Rural England/National Centre for Rural Health and Care, the toolkit also suggests that care homes partner with local voluntary sector organisations to improve befriending schemes and to use social farms or gardens to develop activities of interest to older people who previously worked outdoors.
The authors conclude that further integration of social care and health services at the local level is a significant policy objective, and that there is an expectation of funding reform.
A number of questions are posed by the report to help overcome rural social care challenges:
- What scope is there, when planning service needs and designing commissioning processes, to involve some rural based service providers or rural interest groups, as a means to ensure that learning from rural experience is incorporated?
- How well embedded are social care staff within any locality-based structures or multi-disciplinary teams? Could further partnership working with other frontline service organisations also prove beneficial e.g. to information sharing?
- How robust and effective is the lone worker policy for staff who regularly travel through rural areas, where mobile phone signal connectivity may be unreliable?
- What is the geographic distribution of residential and nursing home settings across the area being served? Does that distribution provide users (or potential users) from rural areas with the option to remain close to the locality and community they have lived in?
- How adequately supported by health professional are those that live in rural-located residential care homes (including nursing homes)? Do those residents and their care homes have arranged access to a visiting team of health professions and to a named GP? Do they also have good access to health professionals who can provide end of life care?