What really happens when you make a complaint to the
Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.
PHSOtheFACTS have been lobbying PHSO and Parliament since 2013 in an attempt to improve the quality of complaint handling and hold the Ombudsman to account. In April 2017 Rob Behrens CBE replaced Dame Julie Mellor as the Ombudsman. Under his leadership PHSO began a new ‘back to basics’ three year reform programme which is now complete. From the chart below you can see that services to the public have all fallen significantly in that time.
PHSO used to release overall customer satisfaction data but it is not easy to find this now. Up to 2018/19 it can be seen that Rob Behrens has lower customer satisfaction scores than under Dame Julie Mellor, an Ombudsman who supposedly ‘lost her way’.
This data from Trustpilot and Google, which is gathered independent of the Ombudsman, shows a stark increase in adverse comments regarding the service provided. You can see the most recent Trustpilot comments here.
It can be seen in the chart below that the number of investigations has reduced (1,122) and the number of resolutions has reduced (372) In fact all services reduced but from a smaller number of assessments (5,236) 19.5% of them were fortunate enough to come away with something resembling a resolution. PHSO boast that 96% of complaints are closed within 7 days and this is due to increase as they move towards ‘impact’ not ‘outcome’ as criteria for investigation. Without considering all the evidence PHSO will only investigate your complaint if they feel it has had a significant ‘impact’. PHSO are now and always have been, very efficient at closing down complaints.
If you have a strong case against a public body then your best option may be to find a solicitor who will give you a no-win no-fee deal and take that body directly to court rather than waste your time with the Ombudsman. A flawed Ombudsman’s report can be used against you in court. Bear in mind that the whole complaint system and that includes legal challenges is set up in favour of the public bodies.
When Rob Behrens first arrived we outlined the main issues complainants had with the Ombudsman service welcome-mr-behrens-here-is-your-starter-for-10 and many of these problems still exist today, such as, failing to investigate valid complaints, timing out complaints which were submitted within the 12 month period, ignoring evidence from the complainant and bias towards the public body under investigation.
If you want to get involved or want more information you can join the PHSOtheFACTS support group by contacting; firstname.lastname@example.org
In this video Della Reynolds, coordinator for PHSOtheFACTS talks to staff at IPSIS, later to become HSIB (Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch) about the complainant’s journey. For context the 35% uphold rate mentioned refers to 35% of investigations undertaken. If all complaints presented are taken into account the uphold rate falls to below 5% of all cases year upon year.