Hospital chiefs have laid out their plans to create a ‘National Centre for Rural Health and Care’ in Lincolnshire.
United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust and Lincolnshire Economic Action Partnership have commissioned research into the project to look at creating the centre which they say is aimed at tackling NHS staffing shortages, and finding ‘new and exciting’ ways of recruiting staff in healthcare by making the ‘rural’ aspect a key selling point.
The nature of Lincolnshire’s landscape has often been blamed for staffing shortages along with demand rising due to an ageing population and the greater distances residents have to travel to access health care.
The trust currently has 318 full-time nursing vacancies, 38 consultant vacancies and 92 vacancies for other grades of doctor.
It is hoped the centre will bring together international good practice in tackling workforce issues – from harnessing technology to learning and professional development and collaborating with other health providers.
The vision, say the organisers, is that it will act as a national and international hub for health professionals.
Jan Sobieraj, Chief Executive of ULHT, said: “Lincolnshire has the potential to build on its rural assets. While there are similar national and international initiatives to tackle workforce issues, particularly in rural areas, there are no well-known centres that bring together a range of disciplines and business opportunities around the provision of rural based health and care.
“We are working closely with health and care providers, local authorities, the Lincoln Institute for Health and businesses to understand what the centre could look at and achieve.”
The research will be led by Rose Regeneration and will culminate in an international symposium in Lincolnshire in February 2017.
David Rossington from LEAP said: “We are committed to supporting good ideas which improve the quality of life of people in Lincolnshire.
“We recognise the health workforce challenges this centre is seeking to tackle and how rural can be turned into a strength in the recruitment and retention of staff.
“This is a big and exciting initiative – Lincolnshire is not only one of the biggest rural areas in England, it also has one of the largest and most dispersed rural populations.
“We are looking forward to working with ULHT and Rose Regeneration to develop the concept.”
A spokesman for ULHT confirmed the idea was in the very early stages at the moment so no location had been decided for the new centre yet.