17 May 2002

Health care crisis

THE chairman of a rural health project opened by the Prince of Wales told how farmers were distressed and isolated by the foot-and-mouth crisis. Jim Cox, chairman of the Northern Fells Rural Project, said there were 113 confirmed cases of the disease in the area covered by his Cumbrian medical practice.

The project was launched by Prince Charles in November 1999 to meet the health and social needs of the region. But foot-and-mouth made it difficult to provide adequate health care to patients, Dr Cox told the Cumbrian public inquiry at Kendal on Thursday (May 9).

Dr Cox said he was worried by the "mental distress" caused by the crisis, and everyone, almost without exception, had been in grieving. However, although most farmers had restocked, some producers hit by foot-and-mouth were yet to decide whether to continue.

Other farmers had a different mix of livestock than before, said Dr Cox. "The future for farming seems to be to be unresolved. The big farms are getting bigger and the fell farms are continuing in the hope they will be sustained by public policy."

Asked what the long-term health implications were, Dr Cox said the situation was gradually returning to normal. Cricket matches had been planned for this season and social events were making a comeback, said Dr Cox who praised the resilience of the local population. "I think this typifies a strong community," he added.