Accessing Services

A priority.

Bus passing houses

The Challenge

Many health and care services are provided away from rural communities, such as hospitals, dentists, dialysis and cancer centres, sexual health clinics, mental health services but also sheltered housing or care homes. The same is true of other preventative and wider wellbeing services, such as peer support groups (on weight, drinking or other addictions), gyms or leisure centres.

Most rural residents live further away from a GP surgery than those in urban areas. In addition, public transport services are not always available and running a car is costly. Those who do not have their own transport, such as the young, elderly or those with mobility issues, rely on friends or community transport solutions.


Only 49 per cent of households in the most rural areas have a regular bus service.


Some GP practices offer outreach services, with nurses and doctors holding drop-in surgeries, often in community facilities. For some services, new technologies make access to information and service easier regardless of location, including:

  • Health and wellbeing information and guidance, e.g. NHS Choices ‘Health Unlocked’ and ‘Live Well Hub’
  • Activity trackers and apps allow access to live real-time personal health information and activity, which can also be shared with health professionals and online peer support networks
  • Remote consultations such as by video link, using more local facilities to enable specialists to see patients virtually
  • Self-testing kits that move services actually into people’s homes, away from centres which focus on those needing further examination or treatment.


of the population of England live in rural areas which make up 85% of the land.


Rural communities can help by safeguarding, or developing, facilities and services such as:

  • Good broadband networks, access to computers and IT training (if needed)
  • Flexible facilities that can serve for outreach / drop-in services, whether in person or virtual
  • Postal services and community transport.

A significant minority of the UK population, 13 per cent (6.4 million) of adults, have never used the internet, with 18 per cent saying that they do not have internet access at home.


Digital exclusion in rural areas is a particular problem in relation to health services because access to the internet may provide one solution to issues of rurality and sparsity.

LGA and Public Health England

Health and Wellbeing in Rural Areas: Case Studies, 2017

Older people with tablet device


of rural residents live within 4km of a GP surgery, compared with 98 per cent of the urban population.


Rural areas have worse access in terms of distance to health, public health and care services. Longer distances to GPs, dentists, hospitals and other health facilities mean that rural residents can experience ‘distance decay’ where service use decreases with increasing distance.

LGA and Public Health England

Health and Wellbeing in Rural Areas: Case Studies, 2017

Older person on bus 1