Background: The COVID-19 pandemic has and will continue to have a disproportionate effect on the most vulnerable. Public health messaging has been vital to regulate the impact of the pandemic. However, messages intended to slow the transmission of the virus may also cause harm. Understanding the areas where public health messaging could be improved may help reduce this harm.

Aim: To explore and understand health communication issues faced by those most likely to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Design & setting: A qualitative study using online surveys. The area of focus was Fife, a local authority in Scotland, UK.

Method: Two consecutive surveys were conducted. Survey 1: N=19 support workers and Facebook group moderators, focussing on key issues faced by service users, as well as examples of good practice. Survey 2: N=34 community members, focussing on issues regarding access to and communication around access to primary care.

Results: Survey one found broad issues around communication and access to primary care services. Survey two emphasised key issues in accessing primary care, including, (a) the lengthy process of making appointments, (b) feeling like a burden for wanting to be seen, (c) a lack of confidence in remote triaging and consultations, and (d) not knowing what to expect prior to getting an appointment.

Conclusion: Clear issues regarding access to primary care were identified. Our new understanding of these issues will inform a co-creation process designed to develop clear, actionable and effective public health messages centred on improving access to primary care.


Copyright © 2022, The Authors. This article is Open Access: CC BY license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

Cite as

Brown, L., Williams, A., Shaw, K., Ozakinci, G. & van Beusekom, M. 2022, 'Information seeking behaviours and uncertainty around accessing primary care in the changing landscape of the COVID-19 pandemic: a qualitative study', BJGP Open, 6(1), article no: BJGPO.2021.0151. https://doi.org/10.3399/BJGPO.2021.0151

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Last updated: 16 June 2022
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