Coronavirus (COVID-19): highest risk – interviews report – August 2021

Results from qualitative Scottish Government interviews conducted in August 2021 with people at highest clinical risk from COVID-19.

Understanding if there is a future need for communications

Assessing what needs and expectations users have for the future of the highest risk list (formally the shielding list) will be important when looking forward in the pandemic.

Scottish Government and NHS advice are trusted sources of information

The majority of participants suggested that they used Scottish Government and NHS information when looking for information about COVID-19 restrictions or about the pandemic. This information was particularly useful when information was thought to be changing quickly and was seen as a trusted source:

I tend to look on the Scottish Government website for information. That is information I trust because it's from the government and I've no doubt that it's correct. (Participant 11)

When looking for information about COVID-19, how to keep themselves safe and information about the vaccine, participants often referred to the NHS website for support as again, this was seen as a trusted source:

I would go to NHS Inform for information. It's their job to protect you and they would never put you in danger. It means I don't need to worry about what other sources might say (Participant 4).

Referring to trusted sources of information has been particularly important for those at highest risk as there is a general awareness of the amount of information on social media and on news websites which was seen as "unhelpful and untrustworthy" (Participant 5).

There is no consensus on the future need for the highest risk list

Participants were split on the future need for a highest risk list, particularly about whether they should continue to receive direct information through letters.

The uncertainty around the future trajectory of the virus was the main reason given for maintaining the list. Participants wanted to continue to be informed of changes in risk or guidance.

You see so much info on the news but receiving a letter with a summary of the main important points gives a level of reassurance. (Participant 5)

Some found the regular communications reassuring and 'would like to see that support continue into that period (flu season) to give peace of mind' (Participant 10), while others said that the list could be used to get information for other public health information, for example "if there is a really bad flu strain" (Participant 1)

However, some felt the opposite, and felt that there was limited future value in further communications:

I've been getting lots of letters with lots of words and little change. It's too much. (Participant 12)

I don't think we can get anything out of it anymore. At some point the world needs to move on and live with COVID (Participant 9)

Several people suggested that rather than receiving information about the pandemic more generally, instead, they would need more condition-specific information as they felt the guidance and information wasn't bespoke enough to their individual level of risk following vaccination.

The communications were incredibly valuable at the time, in protecting me and people in much worse situations. Going forward, there might be people who still need to be protected but I imagine it will be a much smaller list because people will have had a vaccine. It might be a waste of resources for some people now. Participant 4)



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