By David Czarnetzki

PHSOtheFacts is an eclectic and diverse collection of individuals using their best endeavors to fight a common enemy. The key differences with Dad’s Army are the foe is not an external national threat but an internal one, and we do not have a designated hierarchy – just an excellent coordinator in Della Reynolds who, through this website, provides a platform for factual information and discussion.

I was grateful that my letter to Linda Farrant, Chair of the Audit, Risk and Assurance Committee at PHSO was available to view within the recent blog “Silence is Golden”. I was not expecting to hear back, so imagine my surprise at receiving the following email from PHSO on 22nd June. In the interest of openness and transparency, it is reproduced in full with only the identity of the originator redacted. It should be read in conjunction with my letter to Linda Farrant. You may be shocked by the tone and content.

“This message has been classified as Sensitive. 

Dear Mr Czarnetzki

I write in response to your emails of 28 May and 11 June 2021.  

You contacted me to notify me that you had written to Ms Farrant on 11 May 2021 raising issues for her to consider with documentary evidence.  You imposed deadlines requiring Ms Farrant to acknowledge the letter by 20th May 2021, to advise you by 27 May 2021 if she had an issue with the facts as you described and to provide a formal response by 10th June 2021. Your correspondence to Ms Farrant has now been referred to me to respond. 

Your correspondence mentions issues which it is apparent are raised on behalf of ‘PHSOthefacts’. We have been clear in the past as to why we consider the behaviour of ‘PHSOthefacts’ to be unreasonable and that in view of this behaviour it has been necessary to cease to engage with the group and its members.  

It is important to say that we have a duty to prioritise the use of our resources and to act proportionately.  We will do our best to respond to issues raised by complainants in relation to their own cases and similarly, we will respond to more general issues raised by members of the public where it seems right to do so. We have corresponded extensively with you about your case and the subsequent legal proceedings you issued.  On 30 July 2019 the Court ordered your claim to be struck out due to having no legal merit.  Since this point, you have written repeatedly to criticise PHSO and its operations.

Given your clear association and identification with ‘PHSOthefacts’ and therefore with their refusal to behave reasonably we must take the same approach to correspondence from you as we do to correspondence from ‘PHSOthefacts’.  The Board Members provide PHSO with oversight, leadership and stewardship in relation the governance of the organisation but it is not their role to comment, decide or intervene on individual cases or to correspond with complainants on matters arising from them.

Sending correspondence to Members of the Board and imposing timescales for a response does not change their role and does not oblige them to respond within the timescales you have imposed or at all. Further your characterisation of matters as ‘governance’ matters does not mean that they are, in fact, governance matters. Your complaint that Ms Farrant’s failure to respond amounts to a Board Member ignoring governance matters is rejected.

We will not therefore be providing a response to the points that have been raised in your letter but can say that Miss Farrant nor I have seen any issues of concern with regard to matters raised. Furthermore, we do not accept your views that our not responding amounts to an acceptance of your allegations or a failure in the governance of PHSO.

Our views will not be changed because of threats to make issues public.  We consider the correspondence in this matter is now closed and we will not be acknowledging or responding to any further correspondence from you or ‘PHSOthefacts’.  

We will continue to review our position with regard to the unreasonable behaviour of ‘PHSOthefacts’ for which of course each individual participating member is personally responsible. 

We are not aware of the group ‘NHS Complaints and Investigations’ but would suggest that if they wish to correspond on general matters with the Ombudsman it would not be sensible to do so via members of ‘PHSOthefacts’ while ‘PHSOthefacts’ maintains its current stance.

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman”

On receiving the email, my original thought was “We’re doomed” but that soon became “Don’t panic”. The Ombudsman has confirmed what we already suspected. Not only is his animosity directed at Della Reynolds personally, but also at anyone who has the temerity to seek help and support from us.

This bullying response, unworthy of the office holder, is nothing more than a deliberate distraction tactic and should be seen for what it is. The points raised in the letter sent by Della Reynolds to the PHSO Governing Board and the letter to Linda Farrant are skillfully ignored. Personally, I have never, in all my correspondence with the Ombudsman, descended to his level of abuse, yet I find myself ‘tainted by association’ in his eyes. 

This is what develops when absolute power is vested inappropriately. It leads to the insults clearly articulated in the e mail. As far as I am able to ascertain, there is no Parliamentary procedure for removal of the Ombudsman from office. No facility to appoint a Government Inspector as recently happened to Liverpool Council. No oversight other than the scrutiny session to receive the Ombudsman’s report by PACAC, the last using only 90 minutes of the two hours allocated.

Michael Gove, Cabinet Office, has no plans for Ombudsman reform before and including 2023-24. What he should do is set up an independent enquiry into this failed organization now. In the meantime, Mr.Behrens should pack up his troubles in an old kit bag and leave the stage.

If you contact the Ombudsman, as far as association with PHSOtheFacts is concerned “Don’t tell him Pike!”

Footnote: For the record, the reference to my own case in the letter to Linda Farrant referred to my health service complaint to PHSO and not a subsequent court case. The comment that the county court case I presented against PHSO had no legal merit is a play on words. What the County Court Judge actually said was “I have no jurisdiction to hear the case”.