- Invite your critics to a meeting and state that you are ready to listen and learn.
2. When face to face with your critics tell them how appalled you are at the way they have been treated.
“I’m not patronising you, I’ve read the cases, I’ve been shocked at the things…I came as an Ombudsman from legal services, to Higher Education, now to this, and I’ve never seen anything, in terms of stress, and bereavement, and tragedy, like these cases, so this is a different….and I absolutely accept that …and I need to pay tribute to Della, who I’ve now met for the third time, and who tells it exactly how it is, without compromise or fear …”
3. Blame the failure on the previous Ombudsman.
“They produced….this is my predecessor…they produced a beautifully written report which set out, very quickly, what PHSO was going to do. And if you look at it …it didn’t deliver….and I’m not putting myself in that position. I’m thinking, and I’m saying to you, this is difficult, I’m listening very….I need the space to be able to think about how to proceed. Now, as far as review is concerned, and we may not agree about this, so, you know, I’m happy to have the argument that I had….one of the things that annoys me about PHSO is the number of times we screw it up by not listening properly or not investigating properly, so that it comes back for a review, and then even the review is not done properly. So I’ve inherited a fat file of cases from my predecessor, which have gone on for years, where, if we’d only looked at it properly and rigorously, on the first occasion, it could have been resolved, or whatever term you want to use, very quickly. Now we’ve got to stop that, you know, I go to review meetings to look at what’s there, and, you know, this is perhaps the third or fourth time, in which that has been requested and not been satisfactory. What I want to do is to make the review, if there has to be one, rigorous, and authoritative, so that we can say, “yes, you’re right” or “no, with respect, you’re not right” …”
4. Suggest that retraining the staff will put everything right.
“…but you see this is the problem…as a first step I need to do all these things, in order to take this organisation forward. We’ve got to look again at our vision…to make sure that people in the organisation understand what an Ombudsman is about. For me it’s about being independent, it’s about being impartial, it’s about being trustworthy. If we can’t be those three things, then we’re not a proper Ombudsman service. But we have to inculcate that from the top of the organisation right the way to the bottom. And then, we have to make this organisation, on the basis of the things that you’ve said, more professional, in the way we do things. Independent investigations. You’ve explained how it’s not, in your view, as independent as it needs to be. Clinical advice. Impartiality. Empathy. All these things need a notch up, and what we’re doing, is making sure, that people in the organisation have the skills….that they’ve not had for years….”
5. Stick by this objective even though the problems go well beyond staff training.
Critic: Oh come on Mr Behrens, look, you’re pointing out a speck, when there’s a plank the size of, I don’t know, Epping Forest. Look, you know, all of this stuff is just trivial. Look, if they haven’t already got the honesty to do a proper investigation now, what sort of training programme, and all this business, is going to change it. There’s nobody in this room, I can safely say, who would deliberately hush up, wrongdoing by someone in the public sector. Why are there people in your organisation who are willing to do it? This is a matter of honesty and integrity, it’s got nothing to do with empathy and so on…..let’s get the honesty right.
RB. No, I reject your viewpoint…
Critic: Well, you might reject it but the evidence suggests otherwise…
RB. Well, that’s your view…
Critic: No it’s not, it’s the evidence…
6. Close the meeting with the promise of continued dialogue to show genuine good will.
“For me, what I’ve heard is valuable, you’ve been tolerant with me, and I want to continue this conversation. I am prepared, as part of our strategic review, of governance, to think about how to incorporate learning from your experience, into either a user panel, or part of our core objectives, or both. I put that to you as a genuine offer. It’s not going to solve anything, but it creates a regular dialogue, in a way that will help me to make sure that we are listening on a regular basis.”
7. Once your critics have left, close down further discussion due to ‘unwarranted’ criticism.
What, if anything, has changed here? My Behrens’ ‘personal review’ from Oct 10 2017 taking over 6 months to get it ‘right’ was abusive in the manner it denied #PHSO failures and the given evidence (by attendees) of trauma extended and exacerbated by the process. Behrens dismissed the trauma inflicted (by his office) on persons seeking resolution through understanding of the failure with the value of mass of evidence delivered. Behrens ignored my request to explain why his office under Mellor had said that my son “would probably have died anyway”.
Where is this Behrens character at? That was the ‘viewpoint’ of caseworkers untrained in any relevant skill (as checked through FOI) – so what was their evidence and who gave it? Was it commissioned “evidence”, or was it from the defendant (NHS, BSMHFT). Not only did this Behrens decline to tackle serious points of contention, but he ensured that the evidence was withheld two years; i.e. until well after the case could be deemed shut and incontestable.
When I received the evidence after asking twice again it was while Behrens was sitting on his “personal investigation” into the case, done as concession and favour, I expect he thought. The evidence was a pack of lies which could have been realised by any competent investigator but very damaging to PHSO and Defendant alike. A medical ‘professional’ had decided that HM Coroner and I were wrong and that my son’s suicide was an accident. An incredible revelation which BSMHFT has so far shunned away from dealing with.
It seems to me that complainants have been too kind to PHSO people in expecting them to be independent, transparent, accountable and above all to respect the trauma that came with their complaint. Behrens’ crew are so confident in their own untrained (yet brainwashed) viewpoint they have no qualms in adding to the abuse through clear tactic.
But when the PHSO people start dissing you for “your expectations” you know the game is lost. No matter what your disability is, it’s there for the PHSO to use, abuse, and generally take advantage of, without even a question.
It’s not just corrupt; it’s illegal under any law operative since before the turn of the century. And Behrens tells his background as “Legal”; but his “viewpoints” are as susceptible as any given the appropriate ‘indoctrination’ of values.
If so many people had not died as a result of PHSO incompetence and prejudice… it would be funny. No it’s not funny its deadly serious and the UK Government NHS/PHSO collaborative system is potentially failing thousands across our nation.
Behrens’ satisfaction in occasionally picking up on a couple of (originally missed) failures in serious cases is see-through; and pathetic. His predecessors’ collaborations with defendants in my own case was blatant and inexcusable considering the later revelations of evidence deliberately held back, against PHSO transparency.
Evidence required? Check my health record and the treatments and medication needed just to cope with PHSO insanity and abusive responses, and the drugs I’ve needed to deal with the 1000s of sleepless hours and being restricted from normal activities through life-changing trauma. This obscene Government machine needs to be disbanded.
Well said CR. with fake false assurances that there is empathy learning and change we have the worst possible response at the worst moment, not in the heat of stressful care (hospital), nor reputation protection ( Trust complaint handling)but major failing cover up and gas lighting by an incompetent incoherent conceptually flawed to the core final stage body…a waste of time, a blight in the system, a dustbin for complaints..what is needed is learning, addressing the very pervasive system failings and cover up totally predominating from beginning to end of these PHSO processes ( i write as someone who has been through at least 2 phso investigation then review processes , totally vindicated, no useful outcome or learning or even reflection: behrens admits not having read final doc in detail…he was moving on, closing down any independent honest reflection)
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As Rob Behrens personally got involved in my case and then continued the cover-up and wrote me a letter full of untruths, he has a nerve to defend corruption and criminal acts. Perjury has taken place in my case. I have cast iron evidence. And The Met would not investigate even though this gave them grounds to do so. So it’s no use using the fact that they didn’t investigate as a supposed proof of honesty and innocence.
Excellent blog and excellent comments. A few thoughts of my own.
Get some academics to present legitimate criticisms as misguided: ‘…the critiques put forward by the ombudsman watchers may highlight the way in which the public misunderstands the role of ombudsman schemes’:
Boast about the small proportion of positive feedback received:
Ignore the many negative Trustpilot reviews:
If push comes to shove, apologise for… delay:
Create an impressive-sounding panel – Expert Advisory Panel – then when a member queries the panel’s scope to challenge, tell him that that’s not really its role. As board minutes reveal: ‘Rob Behrens clarified that he would have ‘final say’ on issues that EAP provides’:
And don’t forget to bang on about own initiative powers, the Venice Principles, international ombudsmen, new computers, improved training etc. Definitely don’t forget to get some other ombudsman to write a report telling the world how good the PHSO is!
How to run an Ombudsman service without doing anything useful. Thanks for the links Jeff.
Reminds me of the old Bing Crosby song
Busy doing nothing
working the whole day though.
trying to find lots of things not to do”
I was at that 2017 meeting, confirm this blog accurately represents the event and challenge Mr. Behrens to dispute it. At the meeting I accused the PHSO organisation of “Institutional Arrogance”. He was the new broom and whilst I hoped he would bring change, it is now clear his intent was and is to sweep the issues further under the carpet.
The PHSO response in the ‘Dads Army’ blog to my letter to Linda Farrant of the PHSO Board demonstrates that arrogance remains embedded in the organisation.
So where are we now. The fact that Michael Gove, Cabinet Office, has kicked Ombudsman reform into the long grass gives ‘carte blanche’ for PHSO to carry on as they are with no accountability. It really is up to us as, the only effective voice, to publicise the failures.
Therefore I ask you – don’t just sit there -tell your friends about PHSOtheFacts and get them to follow this website because, as sure as eggs are eggs, someone we all know will be on the receiving end of this in times to come
Step 8. Set up a radio station and review processes sucking in groups like Patients Association and some highly regarded family campaigners to provide cover for a policy explicitly excluding families and patients with proven injustice from PHSO to really enable some review, renewal etc.
Step 9. In small fraction of cases who have their case indisputably validated, if after years by PHSO processes , pay a few hundred pounds, refuse to read papers or acknowledge any continued serious errors and negligent omissions, just say ‘we have learnt, moving on” WITHOUT PROVIDING A SHRED OF EVIDENCE this has occurred in any way. Things continue same as ever
AVOID USING IT. IT IS A TOTAL TRAUMATIZING SHAM. NO USE TO ANYONE EXCEPT THE STATUS QUO. A FIG LEAF FOR A STATE HARMING AND REFUSING TO LEARN AND CHANGE, because many failing parts of the bureaucracy would have to be dismantled too.
Spot on Richard
Hopefully he has read your book since writing this letter. It would then not be too difficult to understand why the word “corrupted” is used instead of “misguided”, for example.
Can you imagine Rob Behrens sitting up in bed reading a copy of What’s the point of the Ombudsman?
I doubt he would find it sleep conducive. It would probably work really well in place of his morning coffee.