A mental health trust in London is to use ‘mystery shoppers’ to check on the performance of nurses and other staff, Nursing Times has learnt.
Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust plans to use patients to covertly investigate how its wards, sites and staff are performing in the same way that the retail and hospitality industries use mystery shoppers to measure customer service.
According to the trust’s chief executive Claire Murdoch, herself a qualified mental health nurse, the idea of introducing ‘mystery shoppers’ on wards was intended to bring a ‘fresh pair of eyes’ to the day-to-day working of the organisation.
They would be asked to assess whether the various parts of the trust were welcoming, whether there was a positive attitude among staff, whether the right information was being provided to service users and carers and whether the wards were clean.
‘This is about trying to help staff. It is not about catching people out,’ she said.
Ms Murdoch told Nursing Times that those chosen to become mystery shoppers would be drawn from the trust’s patient and service user groups, and governors. The scheme is due to start in September.
However, she also said she was considering using trust staff as mystery shoppers to assess sites different from those they worked on.
‘We would have to make sure that people were trained to do this, to understand what is good and bad practice, what to feed back instantly and what to feed back to the board,’ she added.
Nursing Times also learnt last week that a similar scheme has just started in South Staffordshire, though this is currently confined to using patients in this role. South Staffordshire PCT is aiming to recruit ‘mystery shoppers’ to feed back their views and opinions on the treatment they have received in local hospitals.
Patients living anywhere in the South Staffordshire PCT area who are about to be admitted to hospital or attend as outpatients can participate.
They will be able to phone a mystery shopper hotline to register their interest and will then be asked to fill in a questionnaire about the different stages of their treatment.
Yvonne Sawbridge, director of quality and performance at South Staffordshire PCT, said the trust was working on the project with Burton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.
‘We all regard patient feedback as an essential method of ensuring that the quality of care is of a high standard and that patients have a positive experience and are satisfied with the outcome of their treatment,’ she said.
‘We believe that this programme, which will provide virtually “real-time” feedback, will help us to develop services that are responsive to the needs of patients and are of an even higher standard,’ she added.
Such schemes are in line with one of the central aims of the NHS Next Stage Review, which called for an improvement in ‘patient experience’.
However, the idea of using ‘mystery shoppers’ appears to go one step further than current patient feedback measures such as the anonymous NHS patient survey and handheld survey devices being piloted in some trusts.
- As Nursing Times revealed in March, Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust is also in the process of developing a tool that tests nursing applicants on their compassion as well as their reasons for entering nursing.
- This includes interview days attended by service users and their carers where they ask candidates how they would deal with real-life scenarios.