Health & Wellbeing in Rural communities: What lies ahead in 2024?

Continued pressures on the NHS & healthcare services

The ongoing demands upon the NHS dominated the headlines in 2023 and unfortunately, these pressures show little signs of abating. Latest statistics reveal that waiting lists in England reached a record high of 7.8 million people in September, and October was the busiest on record for A&E departments.  In addition, ongoing shortages of dentists and GPs mean that there are not enough healthcare practitioners in some areas to meet demand.

Over the last twelve months there has been a 65% increase in private medical insurance (PMI) enquiries[1]. Indeed, the CLA Healthcare team have had increased conversations with CLA members looking for private healthcare for themselves, their families and in the case of CLA business members, for their workforce.

In my experience, the significant rise in private healthcare enquiries underpins an increased recognition amongst individuals and businesses that they want to be able to access reliable and timely healthcare services.

PMI is designed to complement the NHS rather than replace it but with the outlook for the NHS remaining bleak, many people will want the reassurance that they have cover in place to access advice and treatment when they need it. As the NHS remains under continued strain, private healthcare is likely to continue to play part of the solution.


Mental wellbeing remains a high priority

Declining mental health in farming and rural communities has been widely reported and is 46% higher than in other sectors. However those living and working in rural communities have less access to support. In an industry that continues to have the poorest safety record of any occupation in the UK, looking after members’ physical and mental wellbeing has never been more relevant.

As members look ahead to 2024, mental wellbeing will undoubtedly continue to be a priority. But what steps can people take to look after their own – and others – mental health?

  1. Recognise the signs of mental ill health. Typical symptoms include a change in routine or behaviour, declining sleep, increased alcohol and/or use of drugs, avoidance and physical signs such as anxiety or panic attacks.
  2. Seek help early. As soon as you realise that you, or someone you know, has a problem, it is important to take steps to deal with the issue and start towards recovery. Just as with a physical illness, ignoring it can prolong or worsen the problem. Speak to your GP or local mental health practitioner.
  3. Talk to people – Talking to people you trust and let them know how you feel is one of the most important steps in addressing mental health issues. Knowing there is a network of people willing to help can build mental resilience and alleviate stress.
  4. Find ways to improve mental resilience – Different things will work for different people, but taking care of personal wellbeing can help people better manage stress and improve their mental wellbeing. This could include taking regular exercise and enjoying new hobbies; taking more breaks from work; and spending time with family and friends.
  5. Access support available – Organisations such as the Samaritans and the Farming Community Network offer free and confidential advice. In addition, many private healthcare policies include access to specialist mental health services. For business members, Employee Assistance Programmes are a cost-effective but valuable employee benefit.


Speak to CLA Healthcare today

If you would like to know more about the private healthcare and wellbeing solutions available for you, your family or your employees, speak to our expert team today.

[1] deVere Group

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