HEALTH professionals and eminent academics convened in Nottingham for the birth of the new Rural Health Network.
It 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.
Held on Monday (26 November), the "Challenging Times" conference, attracted delegates 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."
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, and an examination of rural data analysis.
There was also 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 use feedback to focus on priorities outlined by stakeholders 0 as well as sharing information and knowledge transfer through e-network link-ups.
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."
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