The health care experience of disabled people during COVID-19: Summary of findings from the COVID-19 patient experience survey

16 Dec 2021 | Health Quality Intelligence

At the bottom of this page you will find:

  • the full report: The health care experience of disabled people during COVID-19: Summary of findings from the COVID-19 patient experience survey | Te wheako tauwhiro hauora a te hunga hauā i te wā KOWHEORI-19: He whakarāpopototanga o ngā kitenga o te tiro whānui KOWHEORI-19
  • the methodology used to develop the report.

A short summary for general readers follows and an Easy Read translation of this content is available also at the bottom of the page. (Other alternate formats of this content are being developed and will be published as they are completed.)

The news story relating to the report is available here.

How disabled people experienced health care during the 2020 lockdown

The Health Quality & Safety Commission runs two national surveys every three months to gather information about how people experience health care in Aotearoa New Zealand hospitals and in primary care (going to the doctor or pharmacy). 

When the COVID-19 pandemic reached New Zealand in 2020, a lockdown followed from mid-March to mid-May (levels 3 and 4). 

We wanted to find out what people’s experience of health care was like during and after the lockdown so we ran a one-off survey about this in June and July 2020. 

After the survey finished, we looked at the results and found out some important information about how health care was experienced by disabled people in particular. 

Below is a short summary about the main things we found. We have also published a full report (see bottom of page):

Main findings about how disabled people experienced health care during the 2020 lockdown
  • Nearly one-fifth of the people who responded to the survey said they had a disability. 
  • Disabled people who responded to the survey were more likely to live in areas of high deprivation and to have one or more long-term health conditions.
  • Māori were more likely to be disabled than non-Māori.
  • Disabled people were more likely than non-disabled people to report that they were not able to access health care during lockdown as they usually would have. For example, compared with people who were not disabled, disabled people were more likely to say they usually would have gone to their GP but didn’t because of lockdown.
  • Reasons why disabled people did not access health care as usual during lockdown included alert level restrictions, thinking their health concern wasn’t urgent enough and worry about catching COVID-19.
  • Disabled people were more likely than non-disabled people to use virtual (phone or video) appointments during lockdown.
  • Only around half of the disabled people in the survey said they got to see their doctor on the same day or the next working day, although this varied depending on where they lived in New Zealand. This means some people could have been seen and treated sooner, which may have affected their care.
  • Disabled people surveyed were more likely than other people to say that their individual needs and/or cultural needs were not met during their most recent appointment.
  • Picking up prescriptions from the pharmacy became more difficult for disabled people during lockdown (although getting prescriptions from their doctor was easier or ‘about the same’ as before). Here are some reasons why:
    • Social distancing put some people off.
    • Some didn’t want to travel due to fears of catching COVID-19. 
    • Medicines were only available in one-month supply, compared with the usual three-month supply.
  • Despite being more likely to have a regular GP, during the lockdown disabled patients generally reported having a worse experience with their GP.

This is the first time the Commission has reported on the experiences of disabled people in the patient experience survey. It is not clear from the COVID-19 survey whether the worse experiences disabled people had were because of the lockdown or would have happened anyway. To explore this, we will look at patient experience survey results from after the lockdown period and compare what we find with the results from the COVID-19 survey.

More information about all our patient experience surveys is available here.

Last updated 21/01/2022