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Parental perspectives on emergency health service use during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom: A qualitative study

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Matthew Breckons, Rebecca Walsh, Dr Sunil BhopalORCiD, Dr Stephen Owens, Professor Judith Rankin



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Copyright: © 2023 Breckons et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. UK 'Lockdown' measures introduced in March 2020 aimed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Although seeking healthcare was still permitted within restrictions, paediatric emergency department attendances reduced dramatically and led to concern over risks caused by delayed presentation. Our aim was to gain insight into healthcare decisions faced by parents during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and to understand if use of urgent healthcare, self-care, and information needs differed during lockdown as well as how parents perceived risks of COVID-19. We undertook qualitative telephone interviews with a purposive sample of parents living in the North East of England recruited through online advertising. We used a semi-structured interview schedule to explore past and current healthcare use, perceptions of risk and the impact of the pandemic on healthcare decisions. Interviews were transcribed and analysed using Thematic Analysis. Three major themes were identified which concerned (i) how parents made sense of risks posed to, and by their children, (ii) understanding information regarding health services and (iii) attempting to make the right decision. These themes contribute to the understanding of the initial impact of COVID-19 and associated restrictions on parental decisions about urgent healthcare for children. These findings are important to consider when planning for potential future public health emergencies but also in the wider context of encouraging appropriate use of urgent healthcare.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Breckons M, Thorne S, Walsh R, Bhopal S, Owens S, Rankin J

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: PLoS ONE

Year: 2023

Volume: 18

Issue: 5

Online publication date: 31/05/2023

Acceptance date: 23/04/2023

Date deposited: 13/06/2023

ISSN (electronic): 1932-6203

Publisher: Public Library of Science


DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0285375

PubMed id: 37256845


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