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A ‘mystery shopper’ project to evaluate sexual health and contraceptive services for young people in Croydon
  1. Susie Sykes, BA, MA, Research and Evaluation Specialist and
  2. Karin O'Sullivan, RGN, FP, Specialist Sexual Health Nurse
  1. Teenage Pregnancy Team, Department of Public Health, Croydon Primary Care Trust, Croydon, UK
  1. Correspondence to Ms Susie Sykes, Croydon Primary Care Trust, Department of Public Health, 12–18 Lennard Road, Croydon, Surrey CR9 2RS, UK. Tel: +44 (0) 20 8274 6396. E-mail: susie.sykes{at}


Objective The purpose of the study was to evaluate the accessibility of, and advice provided by, sexual health and advice services for young people in Croydon, UK using a ‘mystery shopper’ approach.

Methods Nineteen young people aged 13–21 years were trained as mystery shoppers. The group developed a set of standards, based in part on existing guidelines of best practice, that should be met when working with young people. The group accessed local sexual health services in pairs posing as genuine patients. Using one of four scenarios, the mystery shoppers assessed the service they received against the predefined standards.

Results The main access difficulties occurred in the reception area. Confidentiality was a major concern and was frequently not explained. The advice and information received was generally clearly given and with an appropriate level of detail.

Conclusions Additional training and support needs to be offered to receptionists. Confidentiality policies and statements need to be more effectively communicated.

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