In the summer months of 2012 we were commissioned by Warwickshire’s Respect Yourself Campaign and NHS Coventry, to deliver a “Mystery Shopping” programme on their behalf. In short we were to recruit a group of young people to pose as service users to help assess a number of sexual health services from across Coventry and North Warwickshire.
I was really pleased and excited when we were awarded this project as it is a piece of work that so heavily relies on listening to the voice and views of young people. However, I was also keen from the offset to ensure that all of the young people involved in the programme had the opportunity to take as much as they could from the project for themselves as well as helping us to get the information we wanted.
To this end the training took a much wider scope than merely looking at young people and sexual health services. This not only gave the young people a better base of understanding to form their opinions from, but also allowed them the chance to explore their own sexuality, their attitudes and behaviours in terms of sex and relationships.
As part of the training they were briefed on the “You’re Welcome Quality Criteria” (DH2011), and used this to develop their own check list by which to assess each of the services they visited.
Furthermore, the young people agreed to record short video blogs relating their experiences after each visit, as this was deemed a better way of capturing how they were made to feel be the services. Here it is:
Of the 21 services visited (9 across Warwickshire & 12 across Coventry) 18 were awarded the young people friendly kite mark. Three services, all of which were pharmacies failed to meet the young people’s requirements.
In general, the best services were the one that treated young people with respect and empathy, regardless of whether they could actually fulfil the mystery shopper’s specific requests. However, across the board there was a disappointing lack of any explanation of confidentiality and a worrying tendency to offer paid for services ahead of the free services young people are entitled to. Furthermore, many services failed to make the most of the opportunity to offer additional services to young people, even something as giving out free condoms with the requested Chlamydia test kit.
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.
That’s all well and good, but what did the young people take from the project?
“I learnt lots of different methods of delivering RSE, and what a centre has to do to make people feel comfortable, which is really helpful for a volunteer like me”
“I found it good, as I now know what you need to say when you go to a clinic and what to ask for to get what you want”
“I gained more confidence going into different clinics on my own, without needing a friend for confidence.”
“I’d do it again… definitely”
-All members stated that they now feel more confident to talk about Sex & Relationships.
-All members now feel more knowledgeable about sexual health & Contraception.
-All members now feel more or as knowledgeable about STIs.
-Most importantly, all members now feel more confident to visit a sexual health service and better equipped to ask for help.
A BIG thank you to all of the young people involved in the project, who gave up a number of days from their summer holidays, and showed real maturity, confidence and commitment.