Fourth Citizens' Panel report

Fourth Citizens' Panel report

Fourth Panel Report

The fourth Citizens' Panel survey was carried out between December 2017 and February 2018.

Panel members were asked questions about their knowledge about HIV and how it is transmitted, their attitudes to mental health and wellbeing and how to make communication between health and care services and those that use them more inclusive.

Key Findings

HIV awareness and treatment

Seventy two per cent of respondents felt that HIV is an important issue in Scotland today. A similar number (77%) said that they were “well” or “moderately” informed about how HIV is passed on and how to prevent this. Only three per cent said that they “didn’t know anything about it”.

The majority of respondents believed that HIV could be transmitted via sharing needles or syringes (99%) or by unprotected sex (98%). They were least likely to believe that HIV could be passed from a public toilet seat (4%) or by sharing a glass, cup or cutlery (5%).

Survey on HIV awareness, mental health and wellbeing and inclusive communication
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Publication date: May 2018

When asked about the extent to which they agree with various statements relating to HIV, respondents were particularly positive about working with a colleague who is living with HIV and being comfortable if their GP offered them an HIV test (85% strongly agreed or agreed with both these statements). They were least positive about knowing where to go for support with HIV (43% strongly disagreed or disagreed with this statement) or being comfortable about starting a relationship with someone who is living with HIV (40% strongly disagreed or disagreed).

When asked to state whether they believed a number of statements relating to HIV treatment were true or false, 74% of respondents believed it to be true that ‘someone taking effective HIV treatment will have a near normal life expectancy’. However, there was more uncertainty with other statements, most so with regard to the statement ‘women on effective HIV treatment can have children without passing HIV on to them’; only 28% believed this statement to be true.

Mental health

One third of Panel members (34%) revealed that they care, or have previously cared for someone with a mental health problem. The same proportion of respondents (34%) stated that they have had or currently have a mental health problem.

Respondents indicated that they had witnessed (69%) and/or personally experienced (33%) differential or unfair treatment due to mental health problems. 29% of respondents reported experiencing different or unfair treatment because they know or care for someone who experiences mental health problems.

When asked how willing they would be to speak openly to a range of people about challenges to their own mental health, most respondents were willing or very willing to speak to healthcare professionals like GP’s (94%), partner/spouse (89%), family (81%) and friends (77%). Willingness to speak openly to work colleagues (42%) managers (40%) or HR at work (41%) was less common.

When asked the extent to which they agree or disagree with a range of statements about mental health, respondents overwhelmingly agreed or strongly agreed with positive statements: ‘It is possible to have a mental health problem and live a meaningful life (93%), and ‘I would maintain a friendship with someone who has a mental health problem’ (87%). Respondents overwhelmingly disagreed and disagreed strongly with negative statements around attitudes towards people who experience mental health problems, disagreeing that mental health problems are the fault of the individual (91%), and disagreeing that they would feel shame if a family member received a mental health problem diagnosis (89%).

Also of interest was a high neutral response (31%) to questions around relationships with people living with a mental health problem; not wanting someone with mental health problems looking after my child (42%), and not recommending a job to someone with mental health problems (38%).

90% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they were comfortable talking to friends who were worried about their mental health. Almost three quarters of respondents also agreed or strongly agreed that they knew where their friend could get support (69%) and information (73%) around mental health. 60% considered that they knew what they could do to help if a friend told them they were worried about their mental health.

Inclusive communication

In order to help them more easily understand what health and social care professionals are telling them, Panel members indicated it would be helpful if professionals used clear, day-to-day language when communicating with them (95%), checking back with them to ensure they have understood (93%). They also stated that it would be helpful to provide information at their pace, allowing them time to understand and ask and respond to questions (91%).

Written information would be most helpful in the form of a clear leaflet or letter before their appointment to help them prepare (90%) and a leaflet or letter after the appointment (87%).

Respondents were then asked what would help them express themselves more easily to health and social care services. The top 3 responses selected were:

  • talking to someone face to face (94%)
  • taking the time I need to get my message across (90%), and
  • giving services information before my appointment to help them prepare for me (85%). 

A majority of respondents agreed that they would find it helpful if health and social care services used recognisable symbols on signs, to help people find their way around buildings (68%), in letters and leaflets (56%), and on websites and online communications (54%).

The top 3 communication supports respondents reported using, were glasses or contact lenses (73%), tablets or smartphones with apps or other functions to support communications (16%), and having a friend, family member or advocate to help them communicate (12%).


Findings from the Panel survey were used by third sector organisations to raise awareness of a number of issues, including public awareness about HIV (HolyroodPink NewsThe Scotsman) and mental health stigma and discrimination (See Me ScotlandThird Force News).

Data on experiences of mental health stigma contributed to a June 2018 report on Scotland's six public health priorities and to the first progress report of the Scottish Government's Mental Health Strategy 2017-2027, published in September 2018.

The Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018 recognises the importance of inclusive communication and requires Scotland's new social security system to be communication inclusive.

Last Updated: 22 May 2023