Objective: This study aimed to explore the British public's healthcare-seeking beliefs concerning eye symptoms, and assess how the first COVID-19 lockdown influenced these.
Methods and analysis: An anonymous web-based survey was disseminated through mailing lists and social media between June and August 2020. The survey sought participants' views on the severity and urgency of the need for medical review for four ophthalmic and two general medical scenarios on a five-point scale. Participants were asked to answer questions twice: once ignoring the COVID-19 pandemic, and once taking this into account, with additional questions asked to identify factors influencing the decision to seek medical attention and ward admission.
Results: A total of 402 participants completed the survey (mean age 61.6 years, 63.1% female and 87.7% of white ethnicity). Scores for symptom severity and urgency of medical review increased significantly with the severity of the clinical scenario (both p<0.001). However, participants gave significantly lower scores for the urgency of medical attention when accounting for the COVID-19 pandemic (compared with no pandemic) for all scenarios (all p<0.001). Younger age, greater deprivation and non-white ethnicity were correlated with a lower perception of seriousness and urgency of medical attention.
Conclusions: During the first UK lockdown of the COVID-19 pandemic, reduced urgency of medical review for ocular and systemic pathologies was reported in response to the pandemic, which represents a barrier to healthcare-seeking behaviour. This has the potential to critically delay medical review and timely management, negatively impacting patient outcomes.