In order to inform clinical and research practice in secondary care in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, an online survey was used to collect public opinions on attending hospitals. The survey link was circulated via the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Public Involvement (PPI) Leads network and social media.
Data collection included self-identified risk status due to comorbidity or age, and 100 point Likert-type scales to measures feelings of safety, factors affecting feelings of safety, intention to participate in research, comfort with new ways of working and attitudes to research. Results for feelings of safety scales indicate two distinct groups: one of respondents who felt quite safe and one of those who did not.
Implementation of COVID-19 related safety measures such as social distancing, use of PPE and cleaning were strongly supported by most respondents. There was ambivalence around less certain measures such as regular staff antigen and antibody testing. Respondents were most likely to participate in research related to their own condition, COVID-19 research and vaccine research, but less likely to participate in healthy volunteer research, especially if suffering from a pre-existing comorbidity identified with increased risk or were female.
There was general agreement that participants are comfortable with new ways of working, such as remote consultation, though women and BAME respondents were less comfortable. Findings raise concerns for health inequalities already impacting some groups in the pandemic.
The role of clinical necessity and personal benefit support the reopening of services in line with clinical necessity. Moderate caution in respect of vaccine research relative to patient-participant research presents a challenge for pending recruitment demands, and would benefit from qualitative research to explore themes and concerns in more depth and support development and targeting of key messaging.