If you have been following the PHSO investigation into the ‘WASPI’ complaint (Women Against State Pension Inequality) then you will have seen that WASPI were forced to take legal action when Ombudsman Rob Behrens refused to withdraw the flawed second report.
From the Waspi Crowdjustice page – update 12 – we learn that there was a request for Rob Behrens to withdraw the second report and/or engage in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).
But he refused to accept that the report was flawed.
It was therefore necessary for WASPI to crowdfund for legal proceedings as described in update 4.
Even when Pre-action Protocol (PAP) papers were issued, his legal team attempted to find technical grounds on which to dismiss the claim. These are recorded in the Statement of Facts and Grounds submitted to the High Court.
 …the PHSO refused to accept WASPI’s standing as a claimant in these proceedings…
 …the PHSO asserts at §§21-26 that the challenge is out of time because it was not brought “promptly… It is said that the challenge should have been brought, or at very least warned, within two weeks of the Claimant and the Interested Parties being sent the final Stage 2 Report (i.e. on Christmas Eve).
 It is said that there is no public interest reason for the claim to proceed notwithstanding the alleged lack of promptness and that the PHSO has, “justifiably proceeded on the basis that his stage 2 Stage 2 Report was not challenged and moved on to stage 3”
Due to this intransigence the 1950’s women, who have already suffered severe financial loss, were forced to raise funds for a judicial review. Once it became clear that WASPI had both the grounds and the means to pursue the legal route the Ombudsman backed down and agreed to look again at aspects of the stage 2 report. He described this action as ‘cooperative’ in a summary on the PHSO website.
We are confident that we have completed a fair and impartial investigation and, as an independent Ombudsman, our duty is to provide the right outcome for all involved and make sure justice is achieved. We hope this cooperative approach will provide the quickest route to remedy for those affected and reduce the delay to the publication of our final report.
It is clear that the WASPI campaign team were informed that court action was the only route for withdrawal of the flawed report.
Waspi update 12 states that;
That may have been the case historically, but since the arrival of Rob Behrens, things have changed. In February 2018, the Ombudsman conferred upon himself the powers to quash a report in exceptional circumstances, as outlined in this letter to PACAC.
Following this correspondence, PHSO updated their Review and Feedback Guidance which makes rather contradictory statements with regard to withdrawing (quashing) a flawed report
 Our decisions are final and can only be challenged by Judicial Review. We recognise though that this is a technical and expensive process, so we will review a decision we have made on a case if there is information that shows we got something wrong in a way that could change the decision. There is no automatic right to a review, and we will not review a case just because someone is unhappy or disagrees with what we have done.
 In considering a suitable way to remedy a complaint about a decision, we can consider quashing our own report or decision. This means that we would treat the report as invalid (and we would make that clear to all affected parties).
 We will only quash a report or decision we have made in exceptional circumstances given the strong public interest in certainty around our decisions and where we are unable to complete a new detailed investigation.
It is important to bear in mind that the review process is set by PHSO who decide on the criteria, decide whether a review will be carried out and decide what action to take when a review is upheld. Internal changes to this process are most likely responsible for the marked decline in review requests and upholds. (PHSO Annual Report 2022/23 p35)
Typically, a review will look at whether staff followed the correct procedure, rather than at the conclusion reached. The best outcome would be for the Ombudsman to undertake a new investigation. However, the original flawed report would not be withdrawn (quashed) unless the Ombudsman was unable to carry out a further investigation. On this basis the complainant is left either with contradictory reports in the public domain, or no report at all.
On the subject of ‘quashing’ Rob Behrens accepts in his correspondence with PACAC that, “… there is no specific power in our legislation that would compel the recipients of such correspondence to follow this action, this would at least be a clear signal that the findings should not be relied upon more widely..
The question is whether the Ombudsman has overstepped his legal remit by adopting the ability to quash flawed reports. Is he acting ‘ultra vires’, i.e. outside the law?
In 2016, under the previous Ombudsman, Dame Julie Mellor, there was much debate on the issue of ‘functus officio’ indicating that it was beyond the powers of the Ombudsman to re-open an investigation once a decision had been made. If this is the case, then the whole review process is null and void.
Despite many requests for clarification on this important issue, the Ombudsman remains tight-lipped on the matter; aided and abetted by ICO.
As the current guidance stands, it is clear that Rob Behrens could have offered to open a new investigation if he had been willing to review the stage two report and accept that errors had been made.
[OAT – Ombudsman’s Assurance Team]
WASPI campaigners call for ‘fair and fast’ settlement in 10 point plan
‘Make realistic findings on direct financial losses’ and
‘Make compensation recommendations that are fair, fast and straightforward’.
Not things the Ombudsman is known for, unfortunately.
UIN 183885, tabled on 5 May 2023
‘To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, whether it remains her Department’s policy (a) that the matter of changes to women’s state pension age is resolved and (b) to continue to engage with the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman’s investigation into the communication of those changes.’
‘To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, when she expects the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman to publish its final report and recommendations on the communication of changes to the Women’s State Pension age by her Department.’
Tonia Antoniazzi: 
‘To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, whether his Department has made an assessment of the potential merits of establishing an alternative disputes resolution process for people affected by changes in state pension age for women.’
…We are cooperating with the Ombudsman’s investigation.
Her answer brought to mind the words of President Reagan:
“The most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help’.”
She really meant ‘we are hiding behind the ombudsman’s investigation’.
‘Why did Rob Behrens force WASPI into legal action?’
It must be part of the Ombudsman’s ‘cooperative’ approach, which only became apparent after a judge told him he messed something up. The Ombudsman is cooperating with WASPI and the Secretary of State is cooperating with the Ombudsman. Hiding behind the Ombdsman’s investigation is exactly what is happening. When the bad news is finally delivered the government will point to the independence of the Ombudsman and say there was nothing they do. There may be talk of change needed to improve things for future victims of large-scale injustice, but meaningful change won’t come and PHSO will roll on with a new head who has a ‘fresh broom’ script.
Yes you can see the scenario play out. PHSO CEO leaves this autumn. Then Ombudsman leaves in March 2024 and new management takes over cutting all ties with disgruntled complainants. A fresh new beginning for the PHSO spin machine.
It was on 1st February 2018 the Ombudsman wrote to Sir Bernard Jenkin, then Chair of PACAC, outlining his ‘new’ approach to the ‘quashing’ of flawed reports. Having been the victim of a flawed report issued in June 2015 on a health service matter, it took a personal visit to the PHSO London Office (along with many other people affected by PHSO decisions) before the Ombudsman finally accepted his 2015 report was ‘flawed’.
What followed? No re-investigation and no withdrawal of the flawed report. No attempt by the Ombudsman to supply the NHS Trust concerned with the appropriate learning in order to avoid the same thing happening to someone else. Instead, the individual subject of the complaint left the Trusts’ employment to perhaps continue to make the same errors again in a different place. It fell to my MP to write to the Trust with a copy of the revised PHSO findings. So much for openness and transparency at PHSO.
In their most recent report, PACAC are critical of the fact that 7 years on since it was first proposed, PHSO reform has not yet taken place. The reforms proposed then were also flawed, judging by the wording of the Bill introduced at that time by Chris Skidmore MP when he was at the Cabinet Office. No reform should take place without a full Public Enquiry. That enquiry should be started now.
Thankyou to Della Reynolds,PHSO THE TRUE STORY for providing the blogs, they have helped enormously.In summary if the true facts are not in the scope of your investigation.PHSO have done nothing wrong.This is how it is done.
I also learnt the hard way…….years of my life, thousands of £’s, abuse upon abuse by paid Civil servants for ………..absolutely nothing…….it is designed ……if you have managed to survive long enouh to get as far as PHSO…..to put the final nail in he coffin……preferably they hope they have already done sufficient to ensure you are dead 💀 long before that……despise this corrupt Country.
Any we can’t use the European Court to fight our case,
Once again, another excellent article updating on the PHSO WASPI case. It seems we are into the next act of the horror show and all the bad actors coming out in force again with their next lot of trickery.
The WASPI (Women Against State Pension Inequality) had put out a statement on their website (3 April 23) headed up ‘Victory in the Judicial Review’. Victory? What victory? or has something been missed? There will be no victory for the WASPI women ever. The Government and the Ombudsman just can’t let it happen. And if there is no Judicial Review now, the big question is where did all the shedload of money that gullible women had forked out on for a JR go? A few discussions with Waspi and the respective lawyers. Are the women getting their money back? Bindman’s and the Ombudsman seem to be doing very nicely out of all this theatre. Planned? And where does WASPI directorship fit in? There’s been an awful lot of money piling in right from the start years ago – massive funding for a court case that never happened and now a Judicial Review that never happened. Of course, JR is worthless and almost always fails. The whole thing is corruption from start to finish.
A legal victory that will make little difference if any to the millions of pensioners who lost out.
More evidence that PHSO 1) acts as a bully and 2) makes things up as it goes along to suit the situation. Judicial reviews are tokenism to give the appearance of recourse and accountability but in reality they are very rarely successful in any area because they are deigned to be notoriously difficult to win- the system hates admitting any institution or organisation got anything wrong so it makes it virtually impossible to succeed.
The PHSO is corrupt beyond belief and does the public a huge disservice. It would be far better if it didn’t exist at all, all it does is get people’s hopes up and puts up a pretense of objectivity and justice which couldn’t be further from reality. In my case, the PHSO’s MD, Mick Martin, was friends with the NHS Trust’s CEO, Steve Trenchard, and together they colluded to destroy the original PHSO report that upheld my complaint based upon independent clinical advice and produce one that didn’t. Its open corruption. The full story of deception and corruption is here:
Thank you for returning to this topic, here in regard to the WASPI case.
For anyone interested in trying to determine just when the Ombuds might quash a case, I want to draw attention to a few of the Ombuds own written comments from his letter to me in Sep 2019 (health case referred 2014). If ever there was a case ripe for quashing it was this one. Anyhow you can judge for yourselves simply from his own remarks.
RB wrote ‘all the following quotes:-
Your complaint about PHSO’s service is upheld.
Failings identified are significant ..believe some of the investigation findings may not be robust
Proposing to carry out a fresh investigation..will discuss this with you..
things went wrong from the start of the investigation ..
the investigation commenced without any clear agreement about the scope..
We did not seek specialist advice regarding the management of your brother’s PEGJ tube …
Unclear what information each of the advisers had sight of or relied upon..
Our lead clinician has told us the advice was not appropriate either to aid a scoping discussion or as formal advice
unclear which records the adviser had sight of or relied on..
may have relied on the wrong piece of medical guidance..
deeply concerning that no one made it clear to you that the evidence relied upon had not been properly identified …
our adviser appeared to have relied on incorrect GMC guidance..
decision to remove nutrition and hydration from a patient in a permanent vegetative state should be referred to the courts ..not an issue that received an appropriate level of scrutiny in PHSO’s investigation..
we cannot say that the original investigation was robust or that the outcome was sound ..
a new limited investigation..may be the most appropriate way forward
original investigation did not adequately involve you in the scoping of tye complaint
we will do everything we can to involve you more fully’…
I believe Mr Behren’s last point was untruthful. Though promised a new investigation Mr Behrens did not allow the opportunity for engagement in all aspects originally brought to the PHSO. . The’new investigation’ was in effect scoped down before it began. When this was pointed out, he refused to budge on this.
The result is an unresolved case and the final report is still in circulation purporting to be robust when Rob Behrens knows it is nothing but an embarassment to the Ombudsman’s office.
Yes, Rob Behrens has been known to backtrack. Your comments are echoed by M. Boyce who asked PHSO for a review of his case. You can see from his words below that despite finding a number of significant errors, there was no uphold and consequently no new investigation.
M Boyce left an annotation (2 July 2018)
In my PHO review of my final decision the senior caseworker who conducted the review stated exactly the
In summary, our investigation report failed to meet our own service requirements. We failed to set out what
should have happened or compare that to what did happen. In particular, we failed to set out whether or not
HMRC should have considered information on the gov.uk website, or whether it did so. When you raised that
point in response to the draft report, we failed to consider it. Without that information, the analysis expressed in
our report [final decision] was incomplete and did not substantiate a finding either way.’
The review outcome did not say whether the review was upheld, partially upheld, or not upheld. The senior
casework who conducted the review would not tell me which it was and passed it to the PHSO legal team to
decide. They decided it was not upheld because that way they would not have to conduct a fresh review.
That is how the PHSO conducts reviews.
Phso , will never change , corrupt by design
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