PHSO offers to train NHS staff to improve complaint handling.

  On 22 August, Shaun Lintern from HSJ released two interviews from Rob Behrens, the new Health Service Ombudsman.  You can read the first one here

Mr Behrens talks in the first interview about the failings of PHSO and the need to invest in training in order to ‘professionalise’ the staff. In the second, reported in full below, he says much the same about NHS managers and complaint teams. In a move away from previous Ombudsman responses, which preferred finger wagging to intervention, Behrens offers to extend training to NHS staff to improve complaint handling at the first-tier level. Improvements here would clearly save time, money and great distress for all parties as complaints stretch out over years without resolution. The only question is, given that neither the PHSO nor the NHS presently has the expertise, who is going to carry out the training?  Just a thought.                     Della Reynolds


blind mice

NHS managers think admitting mistakes is wrong, says PHSO

By Shaun Lintern22 August 2017

Senior leaders in the NHS have believed owning up to mistakes was not the right thing to do for too long, the new health service ombudsman has told HSJ.

Rob Behrens, the new head of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, warned that the NHS was still too defensive about mistakes and that it failed to invest in proper complaint handling.

In a bid to show that the PHSO was willing to help the NHS, Mr Behrens said it would offer training to NHS staff next year on how to better handle complaints. He also promised no “negative press releases” but instead there would be constructive criticism and sharing good practice.

Mr Behrens said: “We have a very defensive NHS culture. We have complaints handlers in the NHS who don’t have the skills or the authority or seniority to do their job to the best of their ability, and we have an absence of flexible resolution techniques to deal with issues. These things will need to change.

“This is a big issue and I don’t have easy answers but I think one of the problems for the NHS has been a senior management view that to own up to a mistake is not a good thing to do. I don’t think the real world is like that.

“No one is saying the NHS is not a prized national asset; no one is saying that professionals don’t make mistakes, and I think with greater confidence and with a more supportive collegiate environment it is possible to create a culture in which you can deal with complaints in a less defensive way.”

He said trusts needed to understand that the PHSO was “not gunning for them” but wanted to provide redress for people unfairly treated. He added: “It is not about trying to rubbish organisations. We need to talk to people to explain that and to encourage them to take a more transparent view of these things.”

Mr Behrens said neither the NHS nor the PHSO used mediation and early resolution actions to deal with complaints, which he wanted to see introduced.

He added: “In order to contribute to the development of complaints handling in the NHS, through our strategic plan, which will come out in March 2018, for the next three years we will offer a limited capacity to complaint handlers in the NHS to uplift their skills and to demonstrate good practice to them so they can use it in their own organisations.

“It’s not nailed down yet. There’s a lot to discuss because we can’t do it on our own. What we want to do is to provide a limited amount of that training so that other people could copy it and use it themselves. I think we have the knowledge, commitment and skills to kickstart something important and that’s what I want to put on the table.”

Mr Behrens accepted that in the past the PHSO had not offered as much practical advice and examples of good practice as it could.

He said: “You won’t see any negative press releases from me. You will find me to be endlessly constructive in the context that there are examples of maladministration and poor service that have to be addressed, and I know that from talking to and looking at cases personally where things have happened that should not have happened. We won’t shy away from that but we will balance that with examples of good practice so that people can understand and take pride in things when they go well.”









  1. John O'Brien

    I have in my possession 132 internal e mails which clearly shows that 19 members of staff and the CEO of an NHS Trust worked together to conceal from me a written refusal to treat me by a consultant. He refused to treat me because I complained about his attitude and failure to treat my condition whist under his care In my view they were all trying to protect their own careers in fear of the wrath of a senior consultant.

    It is naïve to suggest that NHS staff are interested in addressing complaints against them The opposite is the case.

  2. John O'Brien

    Elise : obtaining medical records and internal records of the complaint using the 1998 Data Protection Act has helped me adduce evidence which will be used in a court of law. Sadly the legal route and courts are the final solution because staff in NHS management rarely, if ever, own up to making mistakes and will try to cover up at every opportunity.

  3. dms91

    Mr Behrens said neither the NHS nor the PHSO used mediation and early resolution actions to deal with complaints, …….why not? which he wanted to see introduced……..good idea!

  4. dms91

    Please employ staff with compassion and humanity Mr Brehens as to date your staff’s outlook is fundamentally flawed. Grief is hard enough and your staff MUST be better trained. Are you responsible for training NHS staff? I guess you are certainly responsible for training your own!

  5. John O'Brien

    Teresa. Laugh or cry it makes no difference.

    The Ombudsman in charge neither knew nor cares about what happened in her organisation. Hillary Pook in her letter of (30/08/2016)confirms that Thomas Hampson who investigated my complaint .has no idea what

    The cover up is lower down the food chain which is where I intend to prosecute individual officers for negligence and incompetence
    I have scanned copy of the letter but not sure how to attach to this site.

  6. Patient Leader

    Agree that it is indeed the “blind leading the blind”.
    The best at training staff are up-skilled patients, otherwise known as Patient/Community Leaders.
    And the NHS consistently fails to realise their value, therefore is guilty of wasting an enormous amount of resources when it ignores the biggest and best resource that it, and PHSO, for that matter, have – the communities they are supposedly meant to serve but, frequently, fail when they prefer tokenism and politicking to co-working and co-design of care …

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