Parental help-seeking behaviour for, and care of, a sick or injured child during the COVID-19 pandemic: a European online survey
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Background Globally, the COVID-19 pandemic had a huge impact on patients and healthcare systems. A decline in paediatric visits to healthcare settings was observed, which might have been due to lower incidence of injury and infectious illness, changes in healthcare services and parental concern. The aim of our study was to examine parental experiences of help-seeking for, and care of, a sick or injured child during COVID-19 lockdown periods in five European countries with different healthcare systems in place.
Methods An online survey for parents with a child with any kind or illness of injury during COVID-19 lockdowns was circulated through social media in five European countries: Italy, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. Parents living in one of these countries with self-identification of a sick or injured child during COVID-19 lockdown periods were eligible to fill in the survey. Descriptive statistics were used for the level of restrictions per country, children’s characteristics, family characteristics and reported help-seeking behaviour of parents prior to the lockdown and their real experience during the lockdown. The free text data was subjected to thematic analysis.
Results The survey was fully completed by 598 parents, ranging from 50 to 198 parents per country, during varying lockdown periods from March 2020 until May 2022. Parents who completed the survey were not deterred from seeking medical help for their sick or injured child during the COVID-19 pandemic. This finding was comparable in five European countries with different healthcare systems in place. Thematic analysis identified three main areas: parental experiences of access to healthcare, changes in parents’ help-seeking behaviours for a sick or injured child during lockdowns, and the impact of caring for a sick or injured child during the lockdowns. Parents reported limited access to non-urgent care services and were anxious about either their child or themselves catching COVID-19.
Conclusion This insight into parental perspectives of help-seeking behaviour and care for a sick or injured child during COVID-19 lockdowns could inform future strategies to improve access to healthcare, and to provide parents with adequate information concerning when and where to seek help and support during pandemics.
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