Overall public confidence in using NHS services is returning, but concerns about using hospitals is greater among some of the groups worst affected by Covid-19, according to new polling data from the Health Foundation.

The survey found that more than one in four (28%) people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds and more than a third (34%) of people with a disability felt uncomfortable about using their local hospital, compared with just over one in five overall (22%).

This is compared to three-quarters (77%) of people reporting they would be comfortable using a hospital – a significant increase from 52% in May.

The poll also found that people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds are also less likely to report having used a health service since the beginning of lockdown (36% compared to 42% of the population as a whole) and are more likely to have considered using a service for a health issue but decided not to (9% compared with 5% overall).

People feel more confident in using local GP services

People feel more confident about using local GP services – with 89% saying they would feel comfortable and just 10% saying they would feel uncomfortable (down from 20% of people who reported feeling uncomfortable doing so in May).

Of those who would feel uncomfortable, the risk of catching or being exposed to Covid-19 was the most cited reason why (53% for GP services and 72% for hospitals).

Tim Gardner, Senior Policy Fellow at the Health Foundation, said: "Whilst it is reassuring to see that the public’s confidence in using NHS services is returning, a significant number of people remain uneasy about accessing vital health care services. The fact that people with a disability and those from black and minority ethnic backgrounds are more likely to feel uncomfortable about using their local hospital, for example, is of particular concern.

"If this unease deters people from seeking care for serious health conditions, the existing inequalities already laid bare by Covid-19 could be exacerbated further.

"If people are unwell and need treatment, it is important they feel confident enough and receive the right support to access local health care services. Otherwise we risk people with potentially serious conditions going without necessary treatment for fear of being exposed to Covid-19. As the NHS slowly returns hospital services to near-normal levels of activity, it is imperative that the Government and the NHS do their utmost to reassure and support the groups hardest hit by Covid-19 to access essential treatment and care."