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Healthcare in a lockdown

Even if patients are getting enough care during the COVID-19 pandemic, are they getting the right care?

In Spring 2020 we asked over 1,000 patients with chronic health conditions how the lockdown had impacted their healthcare. When asked whether they were able to get enough medical care for their condition during the lockdown:

  • 25.7% of patients said they didn’t need any medical care during the lockdown
  • 44.9% received the right amount of medical care during the lockdown
  • 29.7% of patients said they didn’t receive enough
  • 0.5% received too much

It’s reassuring to know that over two thirds of the patients either didn’t need medical care or received the right amount, but that still means that nearly one third of patients felt they didn’t receive enough medical care during lockdown. (See Dr Rachel David’s LinkedIn posts for detailed findings.)

“[The] NHS have forgotten us and are only concerned with COVID”

Even so, for those who received enough care, was it the right kind of care? In our recent social listening research (where we get deep insights into the patient experience through online patient discussions), a sense of neglect emerged among people, with COVID-19 is getting unwarranted attention. Feelings ranged from “[the] NHS have forgotten us and are only concerned with COVID” to “a friend of mine was denied cancer surgery… yeah let’s clap the NHS”. While one patient reported being very satisfied with the overall level of care they received from the hospital when having a procedure, they explained how the staff at the hospital were so concerned about providing enough information about COVID-19 that they felt the staff were having to minimise information about the procedure itself due to appointment time constraints. This left them not fully understanding the procedure they were about to have.

It is of course important to inform patients about, and reduce their risk of, COVID-19 transmission. But what does this mean for care if the limited timeframe that patients would have already had outside of a pandemic is reduced further to discuss COVID-19? Could some patients leave their appointment feeling like they don’t fully understand their situation?

“[I would feel] guilty, like a time waster”

Adding to this, our survey on patients with chronic health condition revealed a trend among some patients where they would feel guilty if they needed to see their doctor during the lockdown. Patients shouldn’t have to feel guilty about needing medical care. It’s already difficult enough for some patients having to cope with managing chronic illness, never mind having to worry about whether they deserve treatment. Of course, it’s impossible to strike the right balance between treating both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients with limited resources, but this is where communication is the key to solving some of the problems.

COVID-19 has made the healthcare even more challenging, so it’s more important than ever to communicate clearly and effectively, in a way that’s tailored to the intended audience. If a doctor is unable to provide a patient with enough medical care during lockdown, it is crucial that the reasons for this are communicated clearly, with support options and information available elsewhere being signposted. If a patient has a need for medical care, it is vital to communicate to them that their needs are valid, whether we’re in a pandemic or not. This might not change the overall outcome with their treatment, as resources are (understandably) currently very limited, but it could have a dramatic impact on patient understanding and engagement in their healthcare, helping them to feel empowered to seek information and help when they need it.

If you want to better understand the experiences of patients during COVID-19 and beyond, please get in touch.

22nd October 2020



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