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Trust in NHS advice key to Covid vaccine uptake

People’s trust in the NHS was linked to increased uptake of the Covid-19 vaccine during the pandemic, a study suggests.

Public confidence in the information issued by the healthcare system was the strongest predictor of vaccine uptake across the four UK nations, researchers found.

Woman wearing a mask having a Covid-19 vaccine

Health information

NHS websites were the most used source of information associated with a positive vaccination status, followed by advice given by scientists, experts said.

Information from a GP and the influence of televised public health information was also linked to positive uptake of the Covid-19 jab.

Looking at guidance shared on social media and messenger apps – which were more frequently mentioned as sources of information among young adults – was linked to a lower likelihood of having been vaccinated or intending to get the vaccine.

Public trust

Researchers say the study helps understand the effects of different information sources during a public health emergency, and highlights the need for policy makers to recognise the influence of public trust in the NHS.

The study assessed the views of more than 4400 people aged 18 years and over, during the period 16 to 31 July 2021 – a time when overall vaccination rates were high.

The group was asked about their levels of trust in sources of advice on Covid-19, which sources they used and their vaccination status.

Researchers found that 85 per cent of those surveyed were most likely to trust the NHS. This was followed by 79 per cent expressing trust in family and friends, and 77 per cent trust in scientists.

Trust in the UK Government was relatively low at 48 per cent. Compared to those in England, respondents in other UK nations were more likely to trust their respective governments’ information – with the rates in Scotland at 63 per cent and Wales at 64 per cent. The lowest rates of trust in Government advice were in Northern Ireland at 40 per cent.

Trust in the UK government increased with age, with 35 per cent of the youngest age group having confidence in its Covid-19 advice compared with 62 per cent among those aged 65 years or older.

Religious leaders were trusted least, with only around 1 in 4 people relying on them for information on Covid-19.

Vaccination status

The largest predictor for positive vaccination status was found to be trust in the NHS. Trust in the NHS was associated with a three times higher chance of respondents having had the jab. Trust in scientists was the second highest predictor of a positive vaccine status.

Respondents aged 65 and over were four times as likely to have a positive vaccination status compared with the youngest group. The respondents least likely to be vaccinated were people aged 25 to 34 years old.

The study also highlighted significant differences in trust in government by annual household income and occupational class, with higher incomes correlating with greater likelihood of trust.

Researchers say the findings reveal high levels of trust in the key sources of public health advice, and a positive association between using official sources of advice and vaccination intentions, even in the context of overall high vaccination rates.

The finding of a high level trust in the NHS contrasts with general public views on the NHS, with a 2021 survey showing that over half of respondents found that the general standard of care provided by the NHS had worsened during the preceding years. Overall, our findings could highlight the need for the UK and devolved governments to value the importance of public trust in the health system and take appropriate measures to preserve such trust.

Dr Valeria SkafidaSchool of Social and Political Science

The study is published in the Journal of Health Services Research & Policy.

Link to study 

School of Social and Political Science 

[Image credit – Andriy Onufriyenko via Getty images]