Research looking at co-creating clear communication to support vulnerable groups in the COVID-19 pandemic

Wednesday 1 September 2021

New research looks to understand the barriers that stop people from accessing primary care services. Mara van Beusekom, a research fellow within the School of Medicine, looked at how to co-create appropriate and clear messages to support vulnerable groups in the COVID-19 pandemic.  


Mara began the project at the start of lockdown as a way to use her time to try to make a positive change in society. The project looked at gaps in health communication during the pandemic. Working with NHS Fife, Fife Voluntary Action, Fife Council, members of the public, health care workers and other support workers, the project asked for input from stakeholders before establishing a co-creation group to come up with solutions. For five weeks, the research team and the co-creation group worked step-by-step via online meetings to understand what made people hesitant to contact their GP and how to overcome this.  Findings indicated there was an overall hesitancy to access health services due to uncertainty around changes in GP practices during COVID-19 and difficulties with getting appointments. 


The project culminated in the development of several communication resources which included posters, leaflets and videos that cover everything from how to make a GP appointment to more pressing issues of people finding it difficult to share sensitive information. When speaking of the importance of the project, Mara noted that lots of people aren’t aware of how much things have changed in GP practices in general and the need to reach out to people to make them part of these changes. COVID-19 has added pressure to these issues with more changes in how people access their GPs and increased workloads for practices. Overall, the importance of this project is to support GP practices with simple communication tools to encourage people to come forward with potential health issues and make it easier to access services.  


As for the next steps, the team is working on evaluating the materials with members of the public and practices outside of the co-creation group to see if they are acceptable for the wide range of GP practices. After evaluation, Mara hopes that these materials can be made available online for widespread use.  


The research team at St Andrews consisted of Mara van Beusekom, Lynsey Brown, Dr Andrew James Williams and Dr Gozde Ozakinci.  


This work is funded by Medical Research Scotland’s Covid-19 Research Grants and the NHS Fife and the University of St Andrews COVID Accelerator Research Scheme. 


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