Nurses at a busy livestock market are providing an early-warning system for health problems among farmers.
The nurse-led service at Newark Livestock Market was used by nearly 260 people last year – the vast majority of whom were farmers or people closely connected to farming.
The service is run by charities Nottinghamshire Rural Support and Lincolnshire Rural Support Network with support from the NHS.
It has been accessed by 207 men and 52 women over the past year. More than 165 of the service’s clients were over 65 and all but about 20 were over 51.
It was set up to help the farming community in Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and beyond at a time of growing financial pressures in the industry.
Figures from the service provide a snapshot of the health concerns of farmers in the region, but also of the ageing demographic of the industry.
Half the farmers using the service were from Nottinghamshire and 31% from Lincolnshire, with the rest from Leicestershire, Derbyshire, Norfolk and Northamptonshire.
Many visited the nurse for checks on blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol, but more than 100 concerned mental health – covering everything from mild anxiety to serious depression.
Other visits involved wound care or seeking advice, screening or information about cancer.
Heather Dawes, one of two nurses running the service, said: “Lots of clients are in their 70s or even 80s, which is not unusual in itself until you consider that these are people who are still working and who are still active farmers.
“They may have cut down or reduced their workloads, but they are still going out every day to look after their animals.”
Ms Dawes walks through the market every week and sees farmers who clearly need a hip replacement but will not – or perhaps cannot – take time off to get it done.
“The age profile also shows in some of the mental health concerns – farmers who are worried either that they cannot afford to retire or that they have no one to take over from them,” she added.
Peter Geldart, chairman of Nottinghamshire Rural Support, which aims to help farmers suffering from stress and anxiety, said the clinics were a vital part of the charity’s work.
“These are extremely difficult times for the farming industry and sadly we are seeing an increase this year in the number of serious cases being referred to us,” he said.