Published on 9 October 2020

Fear of catching and becoming seriously ill with Covid-19 was far greater than concerns about existing health conditions according to survey.

The results of a new survey have highlighted the need for patients to have access to clear, consistent information about Covid-19 safety measures before going to hospital and GP appointments.

The Covid Choices survey was organised by the Patient Information Forum, of which DRWF is a member, and included responses from more than 800 people.

The results found that one in three patients had delayed healthcare or treatment during the Covid-19 pandemic. Three quarters (75%) said this was down to concerns about Covid-19.

Around 5% of the survey respondents had diabetes.

A third of people with existing health conditions, including diabetes, put off seeking medical care during the Covid-19 pandemic

In response to the results the Patient Information Forum concluded that “patients need clear, consistent information about Covid-19 safety measures before going to hospital and GP appointments”.

Key concerns and barriers to seeking appropriate medical help included a lack of what was seen to trustworthy information and conflicting guidance around the guidelines to staying safe for people with existing health conditions.

Sue Farrington, Chair of Patient Information Forum said: “Lack of information before appointments causes concern. 

"It is stopping some people getting the care they need. 

"Concern about future appointments could be reduced with better information from Trusts and GPs about Covid-19 safety measures in place. 

"This is vital as the NHS moves to phase 3 and resumes a more normal service.”

Cleaning cart in a hospital.

Survey responders were wary of safety precautions being carried out in medical buildings

Additional findings reported that of the 70% who had attended care, one in four did not have prior information on safety measures.

More than half (57%) of all respondents were concerned about attending future appointments.

Just over half (59%) of respondents had a long-term condition, while just under half of respondents had been shielding.

While 79% of survey respondents said they trusted NHS advice, just under half (45%) said they trusted UK government advice.

A sub analysis of the results revealed that the biggest driver of concern, bigger than age, gender or underlying health condition, was lack of access to trustworthy information.

However, most patients who had actually attended GP or hospital care were satisfied with the precautions in place.

While many patients did receive prior information, analysis of free text comments found simple clear instructions about appointments would help ease anxiety.

The survey ran on social media from 23rd July to 4th August. 

It was developed by a collaborative group, which included patients with long-term conditions, and was partially funded by Norgine Ltd.

Trishna Bharadia, Patient Advocate and member of the collaborative group, said: “The need is clear for personalised, trustworthy information on Covid-19 risks, safety protocols in place and how to cope with this pandemic. 

"This is crucial to the health of patients with long-term conditions as we adjust to the new normal.

"We need a collaborative approach to ensure that patients feel secure and informed, particularly in the case of local lockdowns.”

Ceinwen Giles, Shine Cancer Support and Chair of Patient & Public Voices Forum, NHS England Cancer Programme said: “This data highlights the need for patients to have good quality, clear and consistent information before attending appointments. 

"There's a real need to go beyond telling people to attend hospital and instead explain how the NHS is working to keep them safe throughout their healthcare experience.”

Liz Clark, VP, Medical Affairs Norgine Ltd said: “Patients avoiding medical appointments and preventative care out of fear of contracting Covid-19 could be putting themselves at risk of developing a serious illness. 

"Norgine is proud to support PIF’s work to help people weigh up the risks and benefits of addressing their health needs versus the risk of contracting the virus.”

Concerns patients had about accessing healthcare included:

  • Where they would be seen
  • Whether they would be seen face to face, and could bring a carer
  • How they would access facilities upon arrival
  • What doctors and nurses would be wearing
  • Whether they should wear a face mask
  • How they would be kept safe from the threat of the virus
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