Plans to turn Lincolnshire into a leader on rural health have been laid out by healthcare professionals.
More than 60 delegates were invited to a two-day symposium at Belton Woods Golf Club, starting off the process of planning for the county to work as a National Centre for Rural Health and Care.
The idea could see the county become a centre for national and international research into rural health, aiming to develop techniques and health care practises specific to the area and those similar to it, and changing Government policy away from urban-centric planning.
Chief executive of United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust, Jan Sobieraj, said: “I’ve been in Lincolnshire a relatively short time and in my research into the issues Lincolnshire faces it was pretty clear that there isn’t anywhere you can go to in England that pulls together really good practice about how to effectively provide great care throughout the county – because it’s really challenging.
“There are examples of great practice outside of England, including Scotland, Wales and certainly rural areas of Australia, America and Canada, but there isn’t one place that brings together best research, the best ideals and the best technology which together mean that we have ideas, creativity, innovation and the practicality of putting these into practice.”
Mr Sobieraj was one of four speakers and told those attending: “The time is right to do something remarkable for Lincolnshire.”
He challenged those attending to ‘have ambition for Lincolnshire’ and said the future would be to look at wider practice, technology and research.
“Lincolnshire has an opportunity to invent it here and others can learn from us,” he said.
It is now up to the healthcare bosses to firm up plans for a Centre for Rural Health and Care and how that can be sustainably delivered.
‘Getting better broadband access is just as important as getting another doctor,’ an American researcher into rural health care said.
Professor Iwa Moscowice, the director of the Rural Health Institute at the University of Minnesota, told last week’s symposium how the centre had been used in America.
Prof Moscowice said rural health care was not necessarily about getting more physicians but getting people to take care of themselves.
He said the US had seen an increase in telemedicine, using technology to communicate with patients.
Mr Moscowice said: “Use of technology is really important.
“These little hand held computers, iPhones etc, are going to be evolving to the next phase of their life and undoubtedly going to relate to monitoring the health status of our communities.
“On the one hand technology is important and is one way to get access to services locally through telemedicine, but the other side is that technology is going to help consumers to get engaged in their own healthcare and to be monitoring their own healthcare and understanding when they do need to go in (hospital) and when they don’t need to go in.
“That world’s coming sooner than most of expect, I’d guess within the next decade we’ll be seeing a lot of power of this technology that’s in our pockets affecting the decisions we make about where we get healthcare and what kind it is etc.”
Those attending the symposium were also shown new technology by Matthew Warnes, of Adaptive Technology Europe/Grandcare, which demonstrated a system that could be installed in a patient’s house and linked to health professionals and family as well as to diagnostic equipment.
This technology could be used to monitor a patient’s health from a distance, providing, for example, benefits to elderly people who live independently.