Views & Reviews

A mystery shopper reports

BMJ 2008; 336 doi: (Published 22 May 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:1192
  1. Rob Hull, patient, central London
  1. rob.hull{at}

    As the spouse of a practising GP I did not make much call on the resources of the NHS during my working life. Domestic treatment and occasional short cuts to the right expert usually solved the problem. But now that I am retired I have the leisure to try out the NHS as a consumer—and to report back. In other retail spheres, anecdotal evidence from “mystery shoppers” gives valuable insight into the weaknesses of management systems. I am able to offer the same service to the medical profession—on an occasional basis, I hope.

    My opportunity to do so arose last year when I developed painful capsulitis in my shoulder. Luckily, I was able to make a direct comparison with the treatment of the other shoulder five years earlier. On that occasion I gained immediate relief through a steroid injection. I looked forward to the same treatment and was encouraged to learn that it is on offer at many GPs’ surgeries. I duly booked an appointment at the practice where I am registered. Despite my saying there was no hurry, they insisted on an appointment at a busy Monday morning surgery, two working days later. So far, so good.

    Like policemen, the GP I met was plainly younger than me, but as a layman I had no reason to doubt his judgment. …

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