Rob Behrens, Ombudsman is a great believer in transparency. Here he is talking to DAC Beachcroft in 2018, setting out his stall for improvements to PHSO services.
Rob Behrens, PHSO, on transforming the Ombudsman role with shorter process times, being more transparent, and promoting this ‘national asset’.
He believes that transparency engenders trust and if you can’t trust an Ombudsman, the role is redundant. Convincing the public that the service is fair, open and impartial is crucial to the longevity of the service, particularly when you are required to haggle the treasury for additional funds.
We are just 6 months away from the completion of his 3-year strategy and the PACAC annual scrutiny meeting is on the horizon. As in previous years, the committee publish the written evidence in advance of the meeting. And as in previous years, all of the evidence, (bar that submitted by PHSO themselves), tells a different story to that of the Ombudsman.
Who will PACAC believe?
You can see the evidence as it is published on the PACAC website by following this link (It’s not too late to submit your own by following the same link, as the closing date for submissions is the 30th October).
The one which caught my eye was submitted by David Czarnetzki. a concerned citizen who has taken it upon himself to research the value of ‘radio ombudsman’ introduced by Rob Behrens in 2017. Rob Behrens chooses the guests, asks the questions and agrees the final edit. Consequently, Radio Ombudsman allows him to ‘reach out to the public’ in a risk-free manner.
By contrast Twitter allows the public to reach out to him. He responds to this 2-way public interaction by blocking all probing correspondents.
So has Radio Ombudsman reassured the public that their Ombudsman is open and transparent? It would appear from the figures below that it has failed to hit the spot. It is interesting to note that although ‘Radio Ombudsman’ is released through ‘Soundcloud’, an interactive platform, there have only ever been three comments made and the last of these was 2 years ago. Have comments been disabled or are people just despondent with talking to the hand?
Let us give the last word to David Czarnetzki who has drawn this valuable information to the attention of the PACAC committee in good time for proper scrutiny by the only body who can hold the Ombudsman to account.
Page 18 of the Ombudsman’s report to Parliament states:
“The Radio Ombudsman podcast has reached thousands of listeners since it was launched in 2017”.
The Ombudsman hails this as a success story. It is nothing but an example of broad based ‘spin’. Detailed analysis shows a different picture – one of falling interest of the public. Other Ombudsmen working in their own sectors have not followed his lead. The 19 podcasts produced so far have been played a total of 5991 times, broken down as follows:
(Source of statistical information provided by PHSO’s FOI officer).
I conclude this has rapidly become a waste of the Ombudsman’s time and taxpayer’s money. Page 87 of the report shows the Ombudsman has 389 full time equivalent staff. It is clear even they have little interest in using this particular medium of communication.
It is worthy of note the two highest numbers of plays relate to Scott Morrish and James Titcombe – people who imparted direct patient experience. PACAC should be concerned the last four podcasts attracted, on average, less than one third of plays compared to the first five.