But the agency's findings, published for its rural health annual general meeting (AGM) last week, also reveal that transport schemes have serious problems attracting long-term funding and support because service providers are frequently unaware of the potential benefits.
The agency argues that transport schemes can save time and money for health and social care providers by freeing up hospital beds and reducing appointment attendance failure rates. They also benefit patients by enabling easy access to GPs, leading to earlier detection and treatment of diseases, and allowing elderly people to live at home for longer.
Speaking at the AGM, Countryside Agency head of transport Jaki Bayly said: "Transport is the biggest concern in rural communities and rural people consistently say that transport to health care is problematic." She added that the most vulnerable groups are more isolated, including the young and elderly who either do not drive or cannot afford a car.
The study applauds a number of successful schemes. They include the Royal United Hospital hopper bus service in Bath, which supplies a demand-responsive taxibus service.
The Benefits of Providing Transport to Health Care in Rural Areas can be viewed via www.PlanningResource.co.uk.