Over 20% of parents who needed to access healthcare for their child during the COVID-19 lockdown, decided not to attend the relevant service due to concerns about the virus, a new survey has shown.
The survey was carried out by researchers at the UCD Centre for Interdisciplinary Research Education and Innovation in Health Systems (IRIS).
It found that during the lockdown, 34% of parents needed to access healthcare for their child, but among these, 22% decided not to, due to concerns about COVID-19.
When asked specifically about these concerns, 68% of parents said they were concerned about contracting the virus, while 30% felt services would be too busy and they would face a long wait as a result.
Meanwhile, 18% believed that the Government's advice was to stay away.
Among those who did access healthcare services for their child during the lockdown, 56% had a face-to-face consultation with a GP, 49% had a video or telephone consultation, 13% attended an ED and 5% accessed another service.
When asked about where they found healthcare information during the lockdown, 66% of parents said they relied on official government sources, while 29% said they sought information from experts on social media platforms or other online resources.
According to the project leads, Dr Emma Nicholson and Dr Thérѐse McDonnell of the UCD School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Systems, the results indicate that parents felt hesitant about using healthcare services for their children during the lockdown, while some avoided accessing necessary healthcare.
Furthermore, nearly one in five misunderstood official public health advice and thought they were being asked to stay away from health services.
"This has implications for public health messaging as the COVID-19 pandemic plays out. Decision makers will need to ensure messaging is clear and does not encourage avoidance behaviour, which can have severe consequences for the health of children, particularly those with complex conditions or particular health needs," Dr Nicholson and Dr McDonnell said.
The survey was conducted at the end of May and involved 1,044 parents nationwide.
It forms part of a wider 12-month study, the CUPID COVID-19 project, which is being carried out to assess the impact of COVID-19 on accessing paediatric emergency healthcare, to understand how the health-seeking behaviour of parents may have altered due to the pandemic, and to identify how any barriers to accessing care can be removed.
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