I have asked the Rural Health Forum to publish this:
Here in Norfolk the public authorities stubbornly stick to their view of local rural communities being regarded as suburbs within a five mile radius of Norwich, Norwich being roughly in the centre of the eastern half of the county.
The real position, which public authorities studiously ignore, is that some of our rural communities are as much as 42 miles from Norwich, with those on the eastern border being a mere 20.
The present position is that by far the largest number of social and health services are centred in and around Norwich. There are very few health or social services sited locally, resulting in the fact of the further away people live from Norwich, the more profound the exclusion. And those difficulties of exclusion are multiplied exponentially for disabled people with sensory deficits and problems; elderly people who are housebound; people with mental disorders which have personal neglect and withdrawal, sociophobic affect, delusions of external control and paranoid delusions as components of their symptomatology; people who have problems of literacy; working people with no possibility of getting time off, or money to spare for travel to Norwich; and people existing on welfare benefits; and even some agricultural people who have had their own micro-culture for hundreds of years and still wouldn't dream of venturing into the city etc. Most of those people in our rural areas are hidden from our public authorities, who it can be surmised are quite happy with their obscurity. Inequity breeds inequity!
To make things worse and to perpetuate this shameful inequity, the County Council, the PCT and the Mental Health Trust persist in holding important consultation meetings in or just outside the city resulting in the exclusion of many disabled service users and interested 'stakeholders' living in the outlying villages and scattered communities from participating fully in those consultations. Yes, there is a fair degree of token postal consultation but this, in general, will only get responses from the middle classes and the rest discarded as junk mail.
And this persists. Norfolk County Council was, last Autumn given £10,000 of government money to prepare the way for the advent of Local Involvement Networks (LINks). What have they done? They have arranged two large meetings/workshops on the outskirts of Norwich - meetings easy enough for those people in social and health organisations to get to but out of reach of ordinary local individual service users (patients) and members of the public - especially those described above. LINks are supposed to be in place for April this year but it looks as if "local involvement" is being totally ignored. Successful exclusion. Successful inequity. This is typical.
There must be members of the Rural Health Forum who have experienced/are experiencing similar deeply embedded inequities (one of the frequent rebuffs I get is "Ah well, we don't care if it is national policy - this is Norfolk and we do things our own way here"). Do any of you have strategies or solutions to offer?