The Rural Health Innovation Programme has provided an opportunity to initiate innovative health and social care practice for rural communities in Wales. This report outlines the work of Local Innovation fund projects undertaken during the first implementation phase of the Rural Health Plan in 2010-2011.
The Local Innovation Fund projects were launched in August 2010 and address the key issues raised in the Rural Health Plan of access, integration and community cohesion. The projects are wide ranging and deliver to a broad cross section of client groups as well as addressing acute to long term conditions and engage volunteers and professionals across the board.
A key theme within the projects has been the use of ICT. The IT Paramedics project has enabled Specialist Practitioners to see and treat a wider range of clinical presentations in situ. This has further potential to reduce transfer to hospital and so reduce travel for patients. The Telerehabilitation work aims to use videoconferencing in a wide range of clinical specialities from speech and language therapy to audiology. These projects bring services closer to patients, reducing travel time for service users and clinical staff and improving access for remote communities.
The Voluntary Sector has played a key role in service provision ranging from non emergency transport provision, advocacy services and Investors in Carers. This breadth of service delivery demonstrates the potential the Third Sector has.
Some projects have required service redesign, for example, the Palliative Care project has restructured its service provision engaging with the Third Sector to enable hospice at home care. Designed for Competence has developed three new roles to improve care for patients and released clinical time for senior staff to attend to complex cases. These projects have demanded integrated working which will reduce duplication of work and improve care for patients.
Several projects showed the benefit of extending the roles of health professionals. The community pharmacy projects demonstrate this, for example in the heart failure management work. The nurse led Minor Injuries Unit also extended the practitioner’s role bringing emergency care closer to patients. These models have particular potential for rural communities where access to specialist services can be difficult.
These differing approaches have offered opportunities to improve health and social care provision against the three key themes of the Rural Health Plan of access, integration and community cohesion and engagement. It is vital the lessons learnt from this work are taken forward by sharing the learning, embedding projects locally or diffusing models out across different clinical specialities and/or geographical areas to continue to improve the health and wellbeing of the rural communities in Wales.