Declining health services are the biggest worry for people living in the countryside, according to new figures.
A survey by the Rural England Community Interest Company and the Rural Services Network showed health topped the list of the topics of most concern to rural residents, ahead of public transport, rural housing and rural crime.
The poll of more than 1,900 people was carried out by researchers at the Countryside and Community Research Institute, a partnership between the University of Gloucestershire, the Royal Agricultural University and Hartpury College.
The preliminary results are being unveiled today at the annual Rural Services Network conference at the University of Gloucestershire's Cheltenham campus. Full results will be released later this year.
RSN chair Cecilia Motley said: 'This early evidence of concern about healthcare provision comes at a time when many countryside communities face the withdrawal of vital GP services, NHS service re-configurations and general recruitment difficulties.
'NHS Providers are already expressing grave concerns about what they are describing as the worse winter in recent history.??
'Although rural residents have other concerns – such as lack of affordable housing, poor public transport, often non-existent mobile and broadband connectivity and fears over the future of rural schools – health provision, social care and accessibility has risen sharply up the rural agenda.'