In May/June 2023, Healthwatch volunteers and staff reviewed a draft website for one of the three practices that make up Bexhill Primary Care Network [PCN].

Our aim was to was to undertake a ‘lay review’ and support Bexhill PCN in delivering an effective and engaging website which meets NHS, best practice and user requirements.

By Healthwatch East Sussex
GP Mystery Shopping Websites

What we did

Our Mystery Shopping review consisted of two main elements:

1 – A standard set of guided questions, which each volunteer used to independently review the draft website, focusing on the four core review themes. This included closed and open-ended questions.

2 – Four scenarios were undertaken by reviewers to explore how the different elements of the website came together from a user perspective. They focused on four of the most common tasks users may use the 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

Five Healthwatch East Sussex volunteers (three adult and two aged under 18) were recruited to undertake the Mystery Shopping review. None of whom were patients or users of the practice’s services.

Our goal was to review four aspects of the draft website which had been developed by the team at (the developer behind the new website) in collaboration with representatives of the practice surgery and Bexhill PCN. These were:

  • 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?

What we found

Feedback from Healthwatch volunteers identified that the draft website developed by in collaboration with Bexhill PCN for one its surgeries was generally well designed, laid out, had robust and clear content and delivered effective functionality.

The details findings from our review are set out in our brief report, which explains what the process we followed and what we found.

Everyone involved in the review  acknowledged the challenges of developing a platform or tool that was acceptable to everyone and met all possible content and usability requirements. This included balancing the preferences of users, the needs of PCN/practice staff and the operational limitations/requirements of the website (including accessibility).

Next steps

Following on from this activity, Healthwatch East Sussex will:

  • monitor the rollout of the reviewed practice website in mid-2023.
  • engage with Bexhill PCN to explore the potential for engaging with users of the revised website, 6-12 months after it goes ‘live’, to gather their views on its usefulness and ability to meet public and patient needs.
  • 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 

View the report

Click the link below to download the report

Mystery Shopping: Reviewing GP practice websites for Bexhill Primary Care Network - July 2023 Download File (pdf 194.88 KB)

Related Reports

Mystery Shopping of GP websites and out-of-hours messages in East Sussex. How informative and accessible are they?

During October and November 2021, Healthwatch volunteers and staff reviewed all of the GP websites and out-of-hours phone messages across East Sussex for quality, clarity and presentation of information, with websites also assessed for ease of navigation. This report provides a summary of the findings, together with a number of recommendations.

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