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 three year reform programme two years on it is difficult to see whether this has delivered any real improvements. The Service Charter customer satisfaction data, the one ‘external’ measure, is yet to reach the same levels achieved under Julie Mellor.

It can be seen in the chart below that the number of investigations has reduced but with an increase in ‘resolutions’ without investigation there remains a 20% chance that PHSO will deliver some form of remedy providing your case is taken through to assessment.  The stats give a good idea of the odds against the complainant as 92% of complaints are closed within 7 days and fewer than 5% of all complaints receive any kind of positive resolution year, after year regardless of who is in charge or what new process they have adopted. 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. PHSO have had a 24% budget cut and now have a new criteria for closing cases without investigation entitled ‘not in the public interest’.  It used to be ‘no worthwhile outcome’ – the change in semantics makes no difference, both are value judgements beyond the control of the complainant and likely to cause great distress. 

If you want to get involved or want more information you can join the PHSOtheFACTS support group by contacting; 

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 investigations undertaken. If all complaints presented are taken into account the uphold rate falls to below 5% of all cases year upon year.

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