The National Rural Conference 2024

The Rural Services Network (RSN) is thrilled to announce the National Rural Conference 2024, taking place from 16th to 19th September. This virtual event, accessible via Zoom, is the premier gathering for senior officers, members, policymakers, and rural service professionals.
Further information and booking details can be found here

The Impact of Local Area Coordination

The recent multi-site evaluation of Local Area Coordination (LAC) in England and Wales, funded by the National Institute for Health and Social Care Research and conducted in collaboration with leading universities, presents significant findings that underscore the transformative power of this approach. This research, published last week, is a landmark study, providing a comprehensive understanding of how LAC can make a meaningful difference in people’s lives and communities.

The study, undertaken by the Universities of Hull, Sheffield, York, Exeter, and Leeds, is the first of its kind to evaluate the LAC approach across multiple sites. It highlights the substantial benefits of LAC at individual, community, and systemic levels, showcasing its potential to revolutionise the way we think about and deliver preventive care.

Key Findings:
  • Building Trust Through Relationships: One of the most crucial aspects of LAC is the emphasis on developing trusting relationships. Coordinators spend significant time with individuals, understanding their unique circumstances and building rapport. This trust is foundational to the success of LAC, enabling more effective support and engagement.
  • Strengthening Community Connections: LAC works by connecting individuals to community resources and support networks. This approach not only reduces social isolation but also fosters a sense of belonging and community solidarity. The study found that these connections significantly enhance the overall wellbeing of individuals.
  • Reducing the Need for Formal Care: By addressing issues early and providing continuous support, LAC reduces the reliance on formal care services. This preventive approach helps individuals manage their health and social needs more effectively, preventing crises and reducing the burden on formal care systems.
  • Preventing Systemic Loss: Often times, individuals can get lost within the complexities of the health and social care systems. LAC ensures that people are guided through these systems, receiving the support they need without falling through the cracks. This role as a navigator is critical in maintaining continuous and effective care.

The research employed a Participatory Action Research approach, combining system and ward-level analysis, life stories, Qualitative Comparative Analysis, and a Nested Economic Study. These methods provided a holistic view of LAC’s impact and highlighted several critical aspects:

  • Individual Impacts: Participants reported increased confidence, independence, and overall wellbeing. The consistent presence and support of Coordinators were pivotal in reducing stress and anxiety, enhancing individuals' capacity to cope with life's challenges.
  • Community Impacts: The ripple effect of LAC’s community engagement was evident, with many individuals becoming more active in their communities. This engagement helped build stronger support networks and reduced social isolation.
  • Systemic Impacts: LAC’s ability to bridge gaps in the public services system was a key finding. Coordinators effectively connected individuals with services and resources, reducing systemic barriers and promoting a more person-centred approach.
Local Area Coordination in Rural Communities

Rural communities face unique challenges, including limited access to transport, longer distances to medical facilities, an aging population, and healthcare workforce shortages. The findings from this study are particularly relevant to rural settings, where these challenges can significantly impede access to care.

LAC Coordinators act as connectors, ensuring that rural residents can access necessary services and support despite geographical barriers. By fostering local connections and support networks, LAC helps build resilient communities that can support their members more effectively. The emphasis on early intervention and continuous support aligns well with the needs of rural populations, where accessing timely care can often be difficult.

The multi-site evaluation of Local Area Coordination provides compelling evidence of its effectiveness in transforming lives and communities.

- Read the Summary Report Here.
- Read the Full Report Here.

Detailed in the Rural Access to Health and Care Services chapter of our Winning the Rural Vote Campaign, The Rural Services Network is committed to supporting such innovative approaches recognising their potential to address the unique challenges faced by rural and coastal areas. By investing in and expanding the LAC approach, we can make significant strides towards more equitable and effective health and care services for all.


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