AN INNOVATIVE mystery shopper scheme that enables patients to give anonymous feedback about healthcare they receive in Mid Devon has been shortlisted for a national award.
The joint project was launched by Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust and the Patients Association - an independent charity - in the summer.
The two organisations have been named as finalists in the 2012 Patient Experience Network National Awards. Under the mystery shopper scheme, current and prospective patients are asked to evaluate their experience of using trust services through each stage of their care.
The feedback is collated and made anonymous by the Patients Association before being sent to the relevant clinicians and teams involved in that person’s care. The information is used to share best practice and identify areas for improvement.
Individual patient stories are also shared with trust board members, to provide them with insights into people's everyday experience of the services for which they are responsible.
Carolyn Mills, the trust’s director of nursing, said: “We're very proud to be selected as a finalist for the PENNA awards along with our partners at the Patients Association. We consider patients to be experts by experience and in recent months the mystery shopper scheme has proved to be an extremely valuable way of finding out how they view their care.
“Patients give anonymous, frank and impartial feedback to an independent body. That's extremely valuable - enabling us to check any issues people raise and take action rapidly if necessary.
“In fact the feedback has been largely positive, which has been a real boost to staff morale.”
The trust was the first in the country to launch such a scheme with the Patients Association. Both organisations have been invited to the PENNA Awards Day and Best Practice Conference at the Birmingham and Midland Institute on Wednesday, February 6, when they will showcase their project before the finalists vote for an overall winner.
The joint scheme, entitled Experts by Experience, was shortlisted in the Communicating Effectively with Patients and Families category.
Lynn Dunne, South West regional manager for the Patients Association, said: “We are delighted to be named as a joint finalist with the Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust.
“The project shows that our unique, joint approach to mystery shopping gives rich, honest, independent, high-quality feedback and has also managed to overcome many of the ethical objections to using mystery shopping in healthcare.
“Judging by the level of interest already shown, mystery shopping will be of interest to many acute trusts and commissioners nationally, as they seek to capture patient experience for local service improvement programmes and for informing the commissioning process.
“The trust and the Patients Association worked very hard to develop this project and we are delighted to have gained national recognition.”