Why are PHSO still learning how to do their job?

It seems from this letter to Will Powell in 2004 that the Ombudsman was in the process of changing its working processes and learning lessons from poorly handled complaints.  Nothing has changed and we are getting much the same letters now.  PHSO is continually a ‘work in progress’ when will they start to deliver? 

OMBUDSMAN
OFFICE OF THE PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSIONER FOR ADMINISTRATION
MILLBANK TOWER, MILLBANK, LONDON SW1 P 4QP.
SWITCHBOARD 020 7217 3000, FAX 020 7217 4067, DIRECT LINE 020 7217 4211
From the Commissioner
Ann Abraham
Our ref: C.944/97
Mr W C Powell

October 2004

It was a great pleasure for me to meet you and your wife on 20 September 2004 and I am
very grateful to you both, to your friend Sid Herbert, and of course to Nick Bourne, for
making the journey to meet us. I certainly found the meeting very helpful and informative,
and I very much hope that you did too.
We agreed that I would write to you to confirm what I had said to you at the meeting, and
also to respond, in so far as we could, to the list of questions that you handed me that day. I
am sorry that I have been unable to write sooner, but I understand that Christine Corrigan
explained to you that she had to be out of the office unexpectedly, and that this meant that
she had not yet had the opportunity to go through our files and pull together the information I
needed in order for me to be able to let you have my considered response to your questions.
I am grateful to you for your patience.
I explained to you at our meeting that Adam Peat had been appointed Health Service
Commissioner for Wales (HSC(W)) in November 2003. As a result, I no longer have any
remit in respect of complaints relating to the Health Service in Wales. Adam is also taking
on the role ofWelsh Administration Ombudsman (WAO) from 4 November 2004. That
effectively means that I will be unable personally to intervene in respect of any further
matters relating to your earlier complaints, or indeed in relation to any new complaints.
However, as I said to you when we met, I can assure you that I will be drawing the history of
your complaint, and the nature of your experiences of complaining to the Parliamentary
Commissioner for Administration, HSC(W) and the WAO, to Adam’s attention. That way
we will, I hope, be able to ensure that the very significant lessons to be learned from your
experiences will be shared throughout both our Offices, and the necessary steps taken to
ensure that other complainants will not have to endure a similar experience.

Turning to the specific questions you raised relating to this Office’s previous handling of
your complaints, I have addressed points two to eight as best I can in the attached annex. I
hope, however, that you will understand that the legislation which governs this Office’s remit
gives the Ombudsman a wide discretion in determining the handling of complaints, and that I
cannot now go back and second guess the judgments made by my predecessors on these
matters.

What I can, however, say (in response to the ninth point in your list), is that the comments
made about you personally in the files by some of the Ombudsman’s officers were highly
judgmental, inappropriate and entirely unacceptable. I can only offer you my most sincere
apologies for that. In my view they demonstrated a deplorable lack of sensitivity and
understanding by those concerned, all the more so given the very difficult and painful
circumstances which had led to your complaints.
You asked in your final point what action could be taken to ensure that other complainants
would not be treated in a similar fashion in the future. As I have already indicated above, I
will be talking to Adam Peat about your case and the lessons to be learned from your
experience of our respective Offices. I can, however, assure you that, having identified the
failings demonstrated in our handling of your case, we are using those lessons to inform the
changes in our practices that we are currently developing. Those new working practices will,
I hope, ensure that we can guarantee that no future complainant should have cause to feel
aggrieved that we have failed to involve them fully from the start in our consideration of
their complaint, that we have not done everything within our powers to help them resolve
matters, or that we have failed to treat them with appropriate respect.
Whilst I appreciate that that does not in any way mitigate our poor handling of your
complaints, I hope that you can take some comfort from the fact that your efforts to change
things will have had a significant impact on the way this Office treats complainants in the
future.
I am copying this letter to Nick Bourne, and to Jonathan Evans.
Ann Abraham
Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman
Welsh Administration Ombudsman

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3 comments

  1. Elaine

    Any Charter needs to be based on RULES-BASED RIGHTS and CONSEQUENCES. The PHSO system of principles generating expectations and broad claims has been found to be wholly inadequate. The concrete recognition and invokeability of rights and their consequences require detailed rules and procedures. This should be contemplated as a necessary part of legislative reform of the Ombudsman Acts.

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