Patients from minority ethnic backgrounds trust GPs more than Government as a source of information on the Covid vaccine, according to research commissioned by Healthwatch England.
This is due in part to participants’ existing relationship with their GP, with GPs seen as ‘more invested’ in their health than an unfamiliar health professional, the research found.
This comes as uptake of a Covid-19 vaccine has been lower among all ethnic minority groups compared with the White British population, according to recent Office for National Statistics data.
Healthwatch England commissioned Traverse to undertake in-depth conversations and online exercises with 95 participants from African, Bangladeshi, Caribbean, and Pakistani ethnicity over a period of five weeks during March and April.
When asked who they trust most to answer questions about the vaccines, the most common answer among participants was members of the medical and scientific community, the watchdog found.
The report added: ‘The Government was felt to be the least trustworthy source of information on the vaccine and some participants described this impacting the levels of trust they had in the NHS, adding it had become hard to distinguish between the two.’
One respondent said: ‘At least I have a personal relationship with my GP, someone I can speak to one to one. Their aims are obviously our health – different from politicians.’
Another said: ‘I do trust the NHS, but at the moment it’s hard to see who is saying what, there is a lot of crossover with central government.’
Healthwatch also found that vaccine uptake campaigns featuring celebrities were seen as ‘patronising’ and outreach strategies should instead involve community leaders and local GPs.
Many participants ‘particularly disliked Black and Asian celebrities being shown to speak with authority on the Covid-19 vaccine’, the report said.
Participants questioned why a figure with ‘no relevant healthcare experience’ would be qualified to deliver the message, the report said, adding that it demonstrated a ‘clear lack of understanding’.
One respondent said it ‘felt like the way the NHS tries to appeal to us, there is no effort to actually understand and address the reasons for our reluctance’, adding that it ‘came across as patronising’.
To address this, the NHS should localise its approach to building trust and answering questions, Healthwatch said.
This could include setting up online events for local areas with a panel that includes local health workers, scientists and community leaders, it added.
‘The participants had higher levels of trust in people if they have tangible links to the vaccine rollout programme, such as local GPs and frontline workers. Public Health officials, distant religious leaders, celebrities and politicians did not render the same levels of trust,’ the report said.
The NHS and other public health professionals should also provide people with ‘all the information they need’ about the vaccines to give them some agency, Healthwatch said.
It said that the vaccine should be ‘framed as an offer that people can take up as soon as they feel comfortable’.
The watchdog added that transparency builds trust, and that all information about the vaccine should be made public and accessible.
Among GPs who have been working to boost uptake of the vaccine among ethnic minority patients was Dr Farzana Hussein, from East London, who personally phoned all then-eligible patients yet to come forward back in February.
Elsewhere, GPs at a practice in Leicester managed to convince almost 70% of patients who refused their Covid jab invitation to reconsider and make an appointment in March.
A version of this article was first published by Pulse’s sister title Management in Practice