Patients need clear, consistent information about COVID-19 safety measures before going to hospital and GP appointments, according to a public survey led by PIF.

More than 800 people responded to the Covid Choices survey this summer.

Fear of catching and becoming seriously ill with COVID-19 outweighed concerns about respondents’ existing health conditions.

A lack of trustworthy information and conflicting guidance emerged as key concerns and barriers to seeking appropriate medical help.

Sue Farrington, Chair of PIF 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.”

The results

Analysis of the survey showed:

  • Almost one in three people who responded had delayed care, 75% of these because of COVID-19 concerns.
  • 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.
  • 59% of respondents had a long-term condition.
  • Just under half of respondents had been shielding.
  • 79% trusted NHS advice. Under half (45%) trusted UK Government advice.

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

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

'A clear need'

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.”

Lack of trustworthy information

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.

What people wanted to know

Patients wanted to know:

  • 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.

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.”

Click here to view an executive summary of the results.