Mystery Shopping 2013 – The Outcomes that really matter…


As an organisation we were really pleased to be awarded another Mystery Shopping project after the success and engagement of the previous programme we delivered over the summer. Between January and March 2013 we recruited a number of young people to pose as service users to help assess a total of 47 services that deliver a variety of sexual health interventions aimed at young people across Nuneaton, Bedworth and Coventry.

In total twenty young people aged from 15-18 years old were trained as Mystery shoppers. As with the previous project, their training covered wider issues of sex and relationships, including challenging attitudes and behaviours to contraception and sexual health services. As part of the training they were briefed on the “You’re Welcome Quality Criteria” (DH2011), and used this as a basis for their decisions as to whether each service could be deemed to be young people friendly. This programme was a much bigger task than the previous project. It had a very tight timescale, having only three months for completion, with only a single week, during February half-term, when the young people involved would be out of school.

Indeed as a voluntary project it took real commitment from all of the young people involved who gave up an evening a week to meet after school, plus once the visits commenced a number of days during their half term holidays and the odd evening here and there to complete the visits over a very tight schedule. However the impression they gave was that they all relished the opportunity to be involved and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. We believe this goes to show that, especially these days, young people realise the benefit of being involved in extra-curricular programmes such as this when competition for jobs and courses comes down to more than just the grades they have.
Here’s how they got on:


Of the 47 services visited (24 across Warwickshire & 23 across Coventry) 32 were awarded the young people friendly kite mark. Fifteen services failed to meet the young people’s requirements; seven in Coventry and Eight in Warwickshire.

In general, the best services were the ones that engaged with the young people, making them feel welcome, and most importantly, that asking for help around their sexual health was a normal and positive occurrence.

“having someone smile at you before having a conversation with them, actually changes – and makes a lot of difference”

Unfortunately, across the board there was a disappointing lack of respect shown for young people’s privacy and a tendency for pharmacies especially to have staff that were unaware which services they offered free for young people. A few services showed that had very little understanding or empathy with how young people feel when seeking help around sexual health. However, there were other services that showed themselves prepared to go above and beyond what was expected of them to help support the young people that asked for help.

Each service visited received a feedback letter, detailing the young people’s experiences and a copy of the check list they completed during their visit. Furthermore, all of the services and representatives of the partner organisations in the project were invited to an informal feedback event were they could hear more about the project and ask questions of the Mystery shoppers.

However, the Outcomes that really matter…


One of the most pleasing aspect of the project has been the Mystery shopper’s themselves, All members, stated that they now feel more confident to talk about Sex & Relationships.

However, for us the most startling evidence of what the Mystery shoppers have taken from the project are the real life outcomes that the young people have to show for their experience. This has been most pleasing for us as we made it clear to all of the young people who were involved that this was a real opportunity for them and many of them really made the most out of it. Not only have they reported an increase in knowledge and confidence – but many actually used the project to improve their own sexual health.

-One of the group visited a CASH service for a consultation to have an implant. She returned a couple of weeks later to have it fitted.

– After her experience in the training one of the girls decided to go on the pill and used her visit to a CHAT service to get a prescription.

– One member after exploring issues around STIs as part of the training, was a little concerned about their previous behaviour and so decided they should probably get a check-up and so volunteered to assess the GUM clinic and had a full sexual health screening whilst there (their test came back negative).

– One young person has now decided she would like to study to become a sexual health nurse and has changed her university courses application options to pursue this.

– One member took the opportunity to get her new boyfriend signed up for the C-card scheme and took him along to one of the visits.

– After visiting one of the youth clubs, three of the group now attend there on a regular basis.

– After visiting another youth club and discovering they had a music studio three of the group have also booked in to use the studio.

– Three of the young people from Coventry have now been invited to become peer educators on another local project.

For us these outcomes are far better than numbers on a page.

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