THE long-term health of less well-off rural country folk could be greatly improved if special transport links were set up to allow people without cars to pay regular visits to their doctors of out-patients departments at local hospitals, says the Countryside Agency.
What's more, these links could save money in the long term by helping doctors diagnose diseases like cancers and diabetes in their early stages, reducing the need for extremely expensive medical care later on.
The Government-funded agency carried out a detailed survey of rural health needs and found that the lack of public transport was preventing lower paid people - and particularly the elderly - from seeking medical advice when they first felt ill.
Yet few local authorities and primary healthcare trusts were funding such transport networks because they were not aware of the benefits they could bring.
Savings could include freeing-up hospital beds, said to cost £300 to £400 a day, and the reduction of missed doctors' appointments at an estimated £65 each. Home-visits by doctors, who often have to cover very wide areas in the countryside, could also be greatly reduced.
Anyone interested in seeing more details from the survey should log on to www.countryside.gov.uk/essentialservices/transport