Some of you will know me as Louise Skelly, Head of Operations with the Patient and Client Council, and a few will also know that I farm part time. I am a genuine countrywoman at heart and love being out in the fields. In particular, I love caring for our flock of sheep and, recently, we finished lambing.
I also know that this has been one of the toughest winters for the farmers, with Hurricane Ophelia, the Beast from the East, floods, constant rain and high winds. Caring for animals was difficult, with all the extra feeding and indoor shelter that was required. To top it all Brexit is coming – who knows what that will bring?
But the sunshine arrived last weekend, the grass is growing and the lambs playing in the fields speak of hope and a future. On days like these we can really appreciate the beauty and magic of nature and the countryside in which many of us have the privilege to live.
We also know, however, that living in a rural community has its drawbacks. From a health and social care perspective things are changing - increasing centralisation of hospital services on fewer sites, fewer GPs wishing to work in rural practices, poor public transport and increasing social isolation as more people are living on their own.
We are also experiencing a changing business and social environment with the loss of local banks, libraries and post offices. This means that people in rural communities are feeling more isolated and concerned about the future. Older people, young families and vulnerable adults tell us that they are most affected by the changes.
That said, for a few days next week, most farm families will park the machinery, get animals fed early and all head to Balmoral Show. We will talk, have tea and discuss the weather, Brexit and the price of machinery. Many families will also show the best of their livestock, having put in hundreds of hours just getting them there.
Your Patient and Client Council will also be there and we want you to drop into our stand, EK103, in the Eikon Centre. Call in, get a cup of tea and tell us how we can best support you, your family and community to have a say in decisions about the future of health and social care.
What you have to say really matters and we are here to listen and act on your views.
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