National Rural Health Network launched in Nottingham

For immediate release

30 November 2012

A ground-breaking conference of health professionals and eminent academics convenes for the birth of a new Rural Health Network.

The Network will enable health professionals to effectively share best practice, innovation, learning and excellence in respect of rural health services and health commissioning countrywide, involving every sector supporting health.

The concept emerged from discussions between the Rural Services Network, Nottinghamshire Healthcare and the Institute of Rural Health earlier in the year. The conference, badged "Challenging Times", attracted over 100 delegates from various parts of the UK representing the NHS, local government, emergency responders and the voluntary sector.

Baroness Byford, Secretary to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Rural Services, opened and chaired the inaugural conference. Lady Byford has extensive parliamentary experience in championing the interests of rural communities. Throughout the day she gave delegates her unique overview on important distinctions and particular challenges in delivering many services to rural populations.

Keynote speaker, Professor Mike Cooke CBE, Chief Executive of Nottinghamshire Healthcare said: "Excellence in rural health provision centres around establishing clearly what patients want and then ensuring that the needs of staff are properly met by the organisation so that they can deliver. It's vital to holistically link physical and mental health service delivery. Around the country there are many good examples of such excellent activity but dissemination of that innovation, good practice and that vital link up is not as effective as it might be."

Other eminent principal speakers including several leading authorities in their fields, covered topics as varied as Delivering Public Health in Devon, Rural Resilience in Healthcare, Integrating Prevention and Support networks in rural areas, and the particular challenges of effective service delivery in small District General Hospitals. All have pledged to support the new Network going forward.

Workshop sessions enabled delegates to improve their understanding from a range of specialists in respect of subjects as diverse as rural resourcing, partnership working between the police and the NHS, how the Devon and Somerset Fire Service provides a first responder service on behalf of the NHS, an examination of rural data analysis and an opportunity to hear about the work of the government's Rural Communities Policy Unit based in DEFRA and the re-launch of its online rural proofing toolkit, which is now imminent.

Rural Services Network representative, Nick Payne said: "As the day progressed there was a building undercurrent of keen collaboration and recognition that in times of diminishing resources, we all need to try harder to better share innovation and learning. For many health professionals in these difficult times doing the day job well is often a challenge enough. This is where the Rural Services Network can help.

"The Rural Health Network will now establish itself based on the direction of the conference delegates' feedback. This will ensure we focus on their real priorities and that the information sharing and knowledge transfer through e-network link -ups is maximised. This will be complemented by an annual conference to showcase the best examples. The Rural Health Network will also directly link rural health professionals with the All Party Parliamentary Group on Rural Services throughout the year, enabling Parliamentarians with rural interests to be kept informed of relevant issues, developments and concerns."

The 'BT' state of the art "Vehicle for Change" exhibition trailer was on site all day to enable everyone to test out the latest communications innovations that can be deployed to provide cost effective information technology solutions such as telemedicine applications and video consultations.

Professor Cooke concluded: "The overwhelming response from the delegates was most encouraging and there is already an offer on the table to stage a second conference in 2013 in another region. I am delighted to be associated with this important initiative and Nottinghamshire Healthcare will be actively supporting this project as it develops over the coming months."


Notes to Editors

1) Photograph of Baroness Byford with the principal conference speakers attached (left – right: Baroness Byford with Chris Slavin, Chief Executive, Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust; Nick Daibell, General Manager Adult Mental Health, Nottinghamshire Healthcare; Nick Payne, Consultant, The Rural Services Network; Dr Virginia Pearson, Joint Director of Public Health, NHS Devon and Devon County Council; Sharon Eaton, Higher Level Business Manager, Adult Mental Health, Nottinghamshire Healthcare; Julie Hall, Director of Nursing and Operations, Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust; Dr Deb Lee, Consultant Paediatrician, West Cumberland Hospital and Chair of the Remote and Rural Special Interest Group; Professor Mike Cooke CBE, Chief Executive, Nottinghamshire Healthcare; Professor Chris Packham, Associate Medical Director, Nottinghamshire Healthcare).

2) The conference was held at Nottingham Forest FC, County Ground on 26 November 2012.

3) Other speakers included Professor Chris Slavin, Chief Executive, Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust; Professor Chris Packham, Associate Medical Director, Nottinghamshire Healthcare; Dr Virginia Pearson, Joint Director of Public Health, NHS Devon and Devon County Council; Dr Deb Lee, Consultant Paediatrician, West Cumberland Hospital and Chair of the Remote and Rural Special Interest Group; Professor Rachel Munton, Director, Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care, and Professor Sheena Asthana, Professor of Health Policy, University of Plymouth.

4) The Rural Services Network exists to improve rural services in England. It does this through making representations, providing/facilitating collaboration across agencies and sectors; it also establishes and broadcasts rural best practice. It comprises of over 100 local authorities operating in sparse rural areas, 110 non-local authority service bodies, including the private sector. It communicates weekly with over 45,000 rural stakeholders and acts as the secretariat to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Rural Services, chaired by Graham Stuart MP.

5) The Institute of Rural Health is a UK wide academic charity working to inform, develop and promote health and wellbeing of rural people and their communities.

6) Nottinghamshire Healthcare is positive about providing integrated healthcare services, including mental health, learning disability and physical health services. Over 8,800 dedicated staff provide these services in a variety of settings, ranging from the community through to acute wards, as well as secure settings. The Trust manages two medium secure units, Arnold Lodge in Leicester and Wathwood Hospital in Rotherham, and the high secure Rampton Hospital near Retford. It also provides healthcare in 11 prisons across the East Midlands and Yorkshire. Its budget for 2012/13 is £414m. Visit the website at

7) For further information contact:
David Inman/Nick Payne - Rural Services Network via email on

Chris Haynes, Communications - Nottinghamshire Healthcare on 0115 952 9464 or


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