Lockdown 3.0

We are still here at the RSN for all of our customers and partners. We remain working from home, ready to support you all to ensure that the rural voice is heard at a national level. We'd love to hear from you if you have any queries or want to get in touch admin@sparse.gov.uk

Hinterland - 17 June 2019

In Hinterland this week - the pain of adjusting to new health service approaches in two rural settings, pensions under pressure, the end of Packham’s influence over bird shooting, Scottish tree planting puts us in the shade and the new TV drama threatening to put Lincolnshire on the map. Read on....

*         *          *

Fears for new mothers as Suffolk slashes health visitor numbers

Here is the first of two stories about service cuts notwithstanding the generally received wisdom that money is less tight in the NJS than some other public services.

Health visitors will be made redundant by a local council, sparking fears that new mothers will get less help with mental health problems, breastfeeding and babies’ sleep.

Suffolk County Council – the area in which health secretary Matt Hancock is an MP – plans to cut as many as 31 full-time posts from its 120-strong health visitor workforce, through a combination of redundancies and not filling vacancies, despite the team’s key role in family health.

Internal council documents seen by the Observer show that the Conservative-controlled authority intends to push through the controversial plan by September in order to save £1m from its health visiting, school nursing and family nurse partnership services.

The council is being forced to change the way it provides health services for children and young people because the public health grant it receives from central government has been slashed by £5.47m (16.7%) since 2015/16.

The council wants to drastically reduce the role of health visitors so they no longer undertake three of the five checks of mother-and-baby health that all should receive by the time the infant is two-and-a-half years old. In future they will focus on the most vulnerable families – with nurses, who health visitors say have not had the same training, taking on the other three checks.


Dorset NHS plan: Health secretary orders review

And here is the second story about cuts in health funding in a rural setting. It tells us:

Plans to restructure NHS services in Dorset are to be investigated by a government-appointed panel.

Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has begun a shake-up, including shutting Poole's A&E department.

In 2018, the county council sent the plans to health secretary Matt Hancock over concerns about patient travel times and community hospitals.

It said the minister had asked for the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) to give "initial advice" on the plans.

The restructure aims to avoid a projected funding shortfall, estimated to be at least £158m a year by 2021.

Under the CCG Clinical Services Review, Poole's A&E, maternity and paediatric services will be lost to Bournemouth, which will become the area's main emergency hospital.

Poole is set to become a centre for planned treatment and operations.

Changes to mental health acute care include the closure and relocation of beds at Weymouth's Linden unit and the creation of extra inpatient beds at St Ann's Hospital in Poole and Forston Clinic near Dorchester.

Beds at Portland Hospital have already been closed.

The IRP is a national body that reviews proposals for major changes to health services where there are concerns about the safety and/or value of those changes.

Dorset Council said the referral focussed on "the capacity of ambulance and community services and their abilities to cope with demand arising from those changes".

It said it hoped the investigation would "provide some reassurance to residents".

Dorset CCG said it "welcomed the opportunity for further independent scrutiny of the changes to healthcare services in Dorset".


Council staff pensions at risk from Woodford investments

Worrying stuff for local government workers in Derbyshire and West Yorkshire. Interestingly this article makes me ponder if we can afford to let someone like this take risks with our money why cant we do more to invest it instead in local economic development. The impact could b particularly strong in rural areas affected by market failure.

Council workers have been left exposed to the underperformance of Neil Woodford’s stock market-listed fund, with a £10m investment by council pension schemes at risk from the fund’s declining share price.

Shares in the Woodford Patient Capital Trust Fund have tumbled 25% to 58p since 3 June, when Woodford made the shock decision to suspend his flagship Equity Income Fund, following a surge in redemptions sparked by bad market bets.

While the FTSE 250-listed fund is not directly affected by the suspension, the move at its sister fund caused a sell off in shares and the value of shareholder investments to decline.

At least three local authority pension funds, including Derbyshire, West Yorkshire and Dyfed in Wales, have investments tied up in Woodford’s patient capital fund and risk seeing their investments fall further as the stock price continues to slide. Those pensions investments help fund retirement benefits for members including local government employees, councillors, school teachers, charities and housing association staff.


Scotland plants 22 million trees to tackle climate crisis while England falls 7 million short of target

Very interesting article about the renewal and imaginative re-application of the climate agenda in two different administrations. As usual rural England lags behind when it comes to insightful rural action….

Twenty-two million trees were planted in Scotland last year as part of a push to tackle the “global climate emergency”, official figures show. However, England is falling significantly short of its targets. 

A total of 11,200 hectares of Scottish countryside were covered – well exceeding the current annual target of 10,000 hectares, according to government statistics. 

But in England just 1,420 hectares of woodland was planted, despite a target of 5,000 hectares being set, figures from the Forestry Commission suggest. This means it missed its annual target by seven million trees. 

While the overall figures for the UK in the year to 31 March are up, that success is down to large increases in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Woodland Trust said.

The percentage of woodland cover in the UK remains at 13 per cent, with 10 per cent in England, 15 per cent in Wales, 19 per cent in Scotland and 8 per cent in Northern Ireland.


Michael Gove lifts the ban on shooting birds that triggered death threats against Chris Packham

Love him or hate him Packham has the ability to get people engaging with rural issues….                                                 

Michael Gove has lifted a ban on shooting birds that was introduced following pressure from environmentalists and saw death threats levelled against Chris Packham.

The U-turn follows calls by angry Tory MPs for the environment secretary to “take back control,” after the ban was heavily criticised by farmers and rural landowners.

Earlier this year, Natural England, the non-departmental public body sponsored by the environment department, changed rules that allowed the shooting of 16 bird species, including crows, wood pigeons and jays to protect crops and livestock. 

The decision came after a legal challenge from Wild Justice, a conservation group set up by Packham and Ruth Tingay, among others. 

After it came into force, farmers claimed they could no longer cull crows attacking newborn lambs or stop pigeons stripping their crops, unless they applied for individual licences. This left them fearful of prosecution, they said.


And Finally               

Wild Bill: Lincolnshire Police respond to ITV drama

Its all happening in Lincolnshire – rural police story lines will no doubt have us bursting at the seams with fenland tourists although as it takes a while to love our flat-lands this might be a slow burn……..

An ITV drama starring Rob Lowe as a rural police chief has been branded "criminally inaccurate" by a UK force.

In Wild Bill, the Brat Pack heart-throb plays a grizzled US lawman transferred from Miami to the fictional East Lincolnshire Police.

Episode one saw the one-time Tinseltown hellraiser throwing a cabbage and being booked for speeding on a bicycle.

In a tongue-in-cheek tweet, the real Lincolnshire Police said: "The inaccuracies are criminal".

"It's definitely not what we are really like."

The force said it would pass "concerns about the officers portrayed" to AC-12 - the anti-corruption unit featured in the BBC's Line of Duty.


About the author:
Hinterland is written for the Rural Services Network by Ivan Annibal, of rural economic practitioners Rose Regeneration.


Sign up to our newsletter to receive all the latest news and updates.