Providers across the NHS deliver a comprehensive service for all patient populations, but those trusts operating in rural environments face a distinct set of challenges and opportunities. The NHS Providers rural trust learning network aims to ensure that the value of trusts serving rural populations is fully recognised and reflected within national policy making, enabling trusts to provide sustainable services in these areas.

This publication aims, firstly, to highlight the broad demographic, operational and financial constraints – exacerbated by the challenges presented by COVID-19 – which affect all trusts delivering services to patients in rural areas. Delivering at scale across geographically dispersed communities is challenging for trusts across all sectors: whether large acute hospitals with isolated sites serving rural communities, or community trusts with a number of smaller settings based in rural areas.

Secondly, this document serves to highlight the unique value these trusts offer to patients, staff and to the local communities within which they operate – and emphasise the benefits that a more rural location can offer to staff within the service. We discuss a number of operational innovations that are evident in rural trusts, relating to workforce planning, integration with primary care and community services, and the delivery of remote care.

We also seek to make the case that the financial constraints for providers operating in a rural environment should not obscure the wider economic and social value of these trusts
to their local communities.

NHS Providers is the membership organisation for the NHS hospital, mental health, community and ambulance services that treat patients and service users in the NHS. We help those NHS trusts and foundation trusts to deliver high-quality, patient-focused care by enabling them to learn from each other, acting as their public voice and helping shape the system in which they operate. NHS Providers has all trusts in voluntary membership, collectively accounting for £92bn of annual expenditure and employing more than one million staff.

Saffron Cordery

Deputy Chief Executive
NHS Providers