Published: 03/11/2005 Volume 115 No. 5980 Page 31

Susie Sykes is research and evaluation specialist at Croydon PCT.susie. sykes@croydonpct. nhs. uk

Croydon primary care trust decided to use 'mystery shoppers' to find out how easy it was for young people to access sexual health services.

Twenty 'shoppers' were recruited through a local college, the youth service, a young mums' support group, local voluntary group Millennium Volunteers, word of mouth, posters and a recruitment evening.

The services they were asked to access included: an NHS walk-in centre which offered family planning services; a Connexions young people's clinic; health clinics offering sexual health services; two genito-urinary medicine clinics; and a range of local pharmacies. The shoppers were given different scenarios - for example, asking for advice on contraception, pregnancy and abortion or sexually transmitted infections.

One of the main issues to emerge was confidentiality. Not all young people were clear about what their rights were. Some suggested young patients should be given a card explaining the policy while they wait.

The main finding was that most practitioners treated the mystery shoppers with respect and communicated 'fairly well'.

The young people appreciated it when practitioners were polite, kind, friendly and interested in them but felt uncomfortable when staff were rushed, rude or did nothing beyond providing basic advice.

The shoppers were less comfortable talking to reception staff and often felt they were dealt with abruptly and without respect.

For more information on sexual health, visit www. goodmanagementhsj. co. uk/sexualhealth