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The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said that the countryside is at risk of becoming a ‘healthcare desert’ as 10 million people struggle to access GP appointments and hospital treatment. People living in rural areas sometimes face 60-mile round trip journeys after closures of nearer services.
The NHS has also previously warned that small hospitals are being ‘hollowed out’ because of staff shortages. Nurses at the RCN’s annual conference last week said that plans for a ‘digital first’ NHS are doomed to fail because of the poor 3G mobile phone coverage that blights much of the countryside.
Dawne Garrett, the RCN’s professional lead for older people and dementia, said poor phone and broadband connections meant she could not access vital blood results while making a home visit in rural North Lincolnshire. She had to make a 20-mile round trip to the nearest GP practice to download the test results. Garrett said: ‘A digital NHS isn’t going to work if we can’t even get mobile signal. People are talking about 4G and 5G but we just want 3G that works. We just want a consistent service.’
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