Lead Organisation: BCUHB
Besti Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) shared an online survey during June and July 2020, which around 560 people completed from across North Wales.
Changed or cancelled appointments
The survey found that many of the participants had been affected by changing appointments during the crisis, particularly dental, GP, outpatients and opticians. A smaller number of people chose not to attend appointments because they were anxious about catching the virus, didn’t want to take up time or because they were shielding. When asked what would have encouraged them to attend the most common responses were reassurance about the importance of the appointment, clear instructions and advice and the provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
There were around 300 people whose appointments had been cancelled, of which 43% said this had an impact on their condition and a third said that their symptoms had worsened. Many participants mentioned dentists
Broken tooth led to increased pain. Dental practices would only extract, they would not undertake fillings.Survey participant
Phone and video consultations
The survey found that 76% of people who had experienced a phone or video consultation found it a positive experience.
A very good system that should be continued after the pandemic.
Quick and easy. None of the usual lengthy delays waiting in a doctor’s surgery.Survey participants
However, 24% did not have a good experience. Some people who use services have struggled with the technology, online services are less accessible for some people, some miss the human contact and there is an increasing digital divide.
Not personal, unable to read the person’s body language or facial expression.
Very difficult trying to explain to a GP over the phone how I am feeling with multiple symptoms.Survey participants
During the initial phase of Covid-19, hospital visiting was suspended. Around 15% of survey responses had a relative in hospital and roughly half of these were able to keep in contact with their relatives and half could not. The main ways people did get in contact were through mobile phones, iPads, passing on of messages or permission to visit.
The nursing staff at the Maelor have made wonderful efforts in providing contact with my mum whilst she has been in hospital.Survey participant.
But where people were not able to make contact, this was very distressing for families.
The lack of contact was almost unbearable and as a family we were made to feel like a nuisance when we phoned.Survey participant.
There were some good experiences of using emergency services during the pandemic with people appreciating the efforts taken to treat people without them needing to attend the emergency department. For example, by prescribing antibiotics for ear infections over the phone and making diagnosis based on photos provided.
My father took very poorly with a UTI we used GP out of hours who advised 999. Amazing paramedic and duty Dr managed to keep him out of hospital as he was so poorly and we wouldn’t have been with him in his last days. They brought the hospital to his home. Wonderful team of nurses.Survey participant.
Covid-19 created a high level of anxiety and worry for many people. Around a quarter of participants said they needed emotional support during this period. Most received this from family, friends and neighbours (64%), but other resources used were mindfulness information online, GP practices, phone helplines, online counselling sessions, and local community and voluntary support.
Most participants were able to get the medicines they needed and were satisfied with the service received and many had used the local pharmacy instead of the GP. There were positive comments from people who found the service really helpful and the negative responses were mainly about the length of time people had to queue and shortages of medicines.
Access to information
The top 5 sources of information that people used during lockdown were
- Public Health Wales
- Welsh Government
- Social media
Other sources included information from the health board’s website, local community groups, third sector organisations, employers and word of mouth. Most participants said that information from the health board was useful, easy to access and in an accessible format but some had difficulties finding the information they needed or delays in receiving information.
See also: Covid conversations: Partner Conversations