Throughout September 2023, Healthwatch East Sussex conducted various activities to engage with people from Rye and the surrounding villages to hear their experiences of health and social care.

As part of our activity, Healthwatch staff and volunteers carried out a ‘mystery shopping’ exercise of six GP surgery websites in and around Rye. This report summarises our findings and recommendations.

By Healthwatch East Sussex
GP Mystery Shopping

What we did

Our Mystery Shopping review consisted of two main elements:

1 – A standard set of guided questions were used to independently review the six practice websites, focusing on four core review themes:

  • Quality of information: was it accurate, up-to-date and regularly refreshed?
  • Clarity of information: was it clear and in plain language, and was it accessible to people with particular needs e.g. visual or hearing impairments. Was it available in other languages?
  • Ease of navigation: was information easy to find, or is lots of searching required?
  • Presentation of information: was information engaging in its use of text, images and diagrams? Was there too much or too little? Was it clear where to go for more assistance?

2 – Four scenarios were undertaken by reviewers to explore how the different elements of the website came together from a user perspective, with a focus on the number of clicks to get to the information and its usefulness from a patient perspective.

They focused on four of the most common tasks users may use a GP website for:

    1. How to contact the GP practice
    2. How to order a repeat prescription
    3. How to book an appointment
    4. How to register at the practice


What we found

Our Mystery Shopping activity identified:

  • Whilst the 2023 GP patient survey indicated a decline in patient satisfaction with websites at all six practices, our review found that they collectively performed well against our assessment criteria.
  • All practice websites performed well in delivering clear and quick access to the most common functions patients require (within one or two clicks): contacting the practice, making appointments, ordering prescriptions, and registering as a patient.
  • Reviewers identified that on occasion appointment information may be too detailed, risking confusion rather than making it easier for patients.
  • Information on waiting times or delays for contact or appointments wasn’t generally provided, but may be useful in managing patient expectations.
  • One area where practice websites could collectively improve is in signposting to other health, care and community services, especially mental and sexual health, but also support available if the surgery is closed, such as pharmacies and Urgent Treatment Centres, in addition to NHS 111 and 999.
  • In terms of accessibility, language translation options appear common, but website adaptations for other needs, such as visual impairment were less identifiable. So too was information about adaptations and adjustments at practices’ physical sites.
  • A key area for consideration is ensuring practice websites are compatible with mobile devices, as these become ‘go to’ methods for many people.

Our report identifies 16 recommendations for GP practices, NHS Sussex and Healthwatch, all focused at sustaining positive improvements to GP websites and other linked forms of communications.

Next steps

Following on from this activity, Healthwatch East Sussex will:

  • use learning from the Mystery Shopping process in any future activities reviewing the content, accessibility and usability of health and care service websites.
  • share findings from the Mystery Shopping exercise with NHS Sussex and Healthwatch England so that best practice and development needs are both factored into future activities related to GP websites.
  • share this report with other GP practices in East Sussex to highlight the value of regular internal and independent external reviews of websites to ensure they are ‘fit-for-purpose’

Contact Us

If you are involved in a GP practice or other health or care service with an existing or new website that may benefit from a lay person review, then do contact us via:

0333 101 4007 or 


Tell Us Your Experiences

Please tell us your experiences of local health and care services via our Feedback Centre and let us know how this has been for you.

We want to hear if it has been good, bad or indifferent.

View the report

Click the link below to download the report

Healthwatch East Sussex - Findings of Mystery Shopping of GP Websites in Rye and Rother - Feb 2024 Download File (pdf 515.24 KB)

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