Well according to the PHSO website, the board are responsible for the governance of the organisation.
Our organisation is governed by a non-statutory, unitary decision-making board made up of executives and non-executives.https://www.ombudsman.org.uk/about-us/who-we-are/board
The purpose of the Board is to make collective decisions on the strategic direction and performance of the PHSO service.
Given that the board are responsible for ‘performance’ we wrote to them in October 2020 with our concerns, given that this body was just six months from the completion of their 3-year strategic plan and their performance stats had fallen off a cliff.
You can see our letter in full here
It was a difficult time with many people working from home due to the pandemic, so we waited and we waited. By April we thought we should put out a little reminder so we made the following video.
We found a lot more people who were interested in the answers to our questions. So we included their names on our follow-up letter to Elisabeth Davies, non-executive board member.
We sent this letter by recorded delivery so we were sure to get a response…
... and we did!
This was the response from Maria Mansfeld, Chief of Staff.
Did this mean that the PHSO Board of Governors could just side-step their responsibility to hold the Ombudsman to account for poor performance?
Yes it did.
If you think this is just not good enough then please download our letter to the Governors. Add your own name, then send it by post or email to Maria.Mansfeld@ombudsman.org.uk and don’t forget to copy in your own MP. When you get a reply, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and all responses will be published on phsothetruestory.com
They can’t ignore us all – can they?
Letter to the PHSO Governors – google doc.
By the way, it turns out that the board of Governors not only regulate PHSO, they also regulate themselves.
Board will conduct an annual review of its own effectiveness in respect of these functions, including a review of its own and Committee terms of reference.
I wrote to ms Davies some years ago on similar grounds, when phso had admitted serious failings and got no response from her whatever. Shocking corruption, fake service, fake governance assurance processes. When will someone on the board speak out?
The board are in denial.
Board member Mick King does not appear to be working flat out. He’s seeking to ‘improve public access and accountability’ of the Ombudsman:
I don’t think he has a completion date.
We get a clue as to where the PHSO is heading in what Elisabeth Davies does in her spare time. She’s ‘studying for an MSc in Dispute Resolution:
Remember the 17 cases PHSO told PACAC were being dealt with through mediation (a ‘rejuvenating experience’ for those who took part, according to Rob Behrens)?
It’s a pity the PHSO didn’t provide the information requested. We can take comfort, however, from the fact that Mick King is working to improve public access and accountability!
If those who took part in mediation were hand-picked, it raises questions about Mr Behrens’s ‘rejuvenating experience’ claim.
It appears that mediation may be Mr Behrens’s means to reframe public perception of the Ombudsman. An attempt to move the public’s attention away from the figures that most count: the number of complaints received, the number of investigations carried out, and the number of complaints upheld (fully/partly) and not upheld.
The Board seems to be of the opinion that fewer assessments, fewer investigations and fewer upheld complaints equates with success. How much more ‘success’ do they want!
Board member Anu Singh ‘is passionate about service improvement and community empowerment…’
Has she seen your chart on service performance?
Looks like yet another PHSO governor with a conflict of interests given her NHS England background. It’s clear they don’t mean what they say.
‘Elisabeth is the Senior Independent Director and Chair of the Quality Committee at the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman and is also Chair of the Assurance and Appointments Committee of the General Pharmaceutical Council, maintaining the independence of the Investigation, Fitness to Practice and Appeals Committees and helping to ensure that their decisions have the confidence of the public and the profession.’
By not responding meaningfully to your letter she really is not helping to ensure that PHSO decisions ‘have the confidence of the public’. Maybe just an issue of perception!
To deliver its role, the Board will focus on:
Strategy, planning and policy
Development of the organisation to deliver its strategic aims
Governance, including risk and assurance
Performance, including financial, service quality, and operations
The Board has no responsibility for individual casework decisions or investigations. These remain the responsibility of the Ombudsman, managed within the Scheme of Delegation.
Matters reserved for the Board include:
Vision, mission, strategy and key policies
Annual business plan and budget
Annual report and accounts
All non-pay expenditure above £100k whether a single item or over the life of a contract.’
Presumably she approves of the great decline in the service provided by the Ombudsman to complainants in recent years (I’ve seen nothing in the minutes of the board to suggest the contrary).
And who is Chair of the Board? Have a guess:
He ‘transformed the Office of the Independent Adjudicator into an outstanding ombudsman service by focusing on promoting best practice and providing a more efficient and effective service to complainants’.
I wonder if the ‘more efficient and effective service’ resulted in much fewer assessments and investigations carried out, and complaints upheld in record time.
You are spot on Jeff. It’s all a charade. They invite each other onto these committees. It’s a closed shop. Perhaps you would like to send the letter to Elisabeth Davies and see if she will respond to you.
Here’s something Board member and an ‘independent Consultant and Researcher’ Carolyn Hirst wrote with Chris Gill:
‘We knew that most research on complaints had focused on complainants and how they experience complaint processes. Relatively little attention had been paid to the way in which complaints are experienced by employees.’
Maybe funding was available for the impact of complaints on staff:
‘These sectors were also chosen because they had relatively high levels of complaints to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman and, therefore, represented areas where complaints were likely to be an important issue for staff.’
Information on Chris Gill:
He and Naomi Creutzfeldt collaborated with the PHSO on a project:
‘At the same time, the critiques put forward by the ombudsman watchers may highlight the way in which the public misunderstands the role of ombudsman schemes and may be indicative of an apparent gap between public expectation and what ombudsman schemes are set up to provide.’
Consider the number of parliamentary enquiries the PHSO dealt with in 2018/19:
Only 3 complaints were fully upheld from a total of 5,744 enquiries.
What should the public expect the figure to be – 2,1 or 0!
Thanks Jeff. I do believe that Elisabeth Davies was doing her own research on ‘perceptions of bias’. To help the Ombudsman understand why so many people (erroneously) said that the Ombudsman was biased against them. But all this research is just a cover for business as usual.
The whole seeking accountability process disguised by the NHS favourite word ‘learning’ which of course doesn’t happen is designed to fail for the complainant.
A PACAC Parliamentary secretary said they were withholding publishing my submission until the morning of 2020 PACAC scrutiny meeting, so Rob Behrens got to see it just before.
It was actually published ‘after’ the meeting. I sat glued to my computer screen for the whole session. It was my perception that his body language showed anger.
That’s it folks that’s all we are going to get
We must take it or leave it like it or not.
It’s a very cruel and bullying system doled out to anyone who dares to challenge.
My submission was slighted redacted by the secretary but he didn’t redact my call for his resignation!
I’m sure extremely embarrassing for Mr Behrens
Is this all you can do PACAC?
Mr Behrens is Teflon Coated
and probably will now just sit back and wait for a hideous gong and IMO undeserved pension
It is cruel indeed. Cruel and corrupt to the core.
Sue can you send the letter to Elisabeth Davies to see if she will respond to you?
They don’t respond as you have asked the right questions. Unless more of the British public become engaged and start demanding answers, as after all it is the public who pay for the PHSO from their taxes. The last in the citizens complaints path chain that was found to be corrupt, covering up and very dishonest. Yet it continues unabated Prime Minister Johnson. Robert Buckland QCMP?
You are correct. We all need to start asking questions.
Can you send the letter for us Nigel? They will have to respond eventually.
Funny how the minutes of the December 2020, January and February 2021 slipped out at the end of April just as Parliament went into recess. This has happened before. In February 2019, Mr.Behrens wrote to PACAC “A member of the committee, Rupa Huq, noted that our board minutes had not been published since May. This was an oversight and we are grateful to the committee for bringing this to our attention. We can assure you that all board minutes have now been published and we will continue to publish them routinely” The leopard has not changed its spots!
Now we find from the February minutes that vast numbers of the backlog of 2600 cases awaiting investigation are to be ditched if they fall within Level 1 or 2 of PHSO scale of injustice. Pre-determination at its very worst.
And points 1-6 of the December minutes are missing. Transparency obviously has a different definition to Rob Behrens.
PHSO do not respond to me personally and I don’t know why, so I am in good company!
I’ve written to board members, who if they respond at all, say they leave it up to their appointed officials they don ‘t interfere. I think it means the Board of Governors exercise no power over the PHSO who make it up as they go along; like their case workers decide what constitutes a compliant worth looking at….and close too many cases in 7 days!!!
Now PACAC who are supposed to hold PHSO to account are doing the same thing; this time it is refusing a FOI which is my democratic right to ask!!!! I’ve not been rude or abusive or even vexatious.
What is going on with our Government?