You can ask for a review if your complaint is turned down at assessment stage, or if you are unhappy with the outcome of an investigation. You need to do this within one month of the decision and your request is likely to sit in a big pile in the Review and Feedback Team (RAFT) office. You can see the Service Model Guidance from April 2019 here. PHSO Service Model
The purpose of the review is not to look again at your original complaint, but to look at how PHSO handled that complaint – the process. You, therefore, have to submit the reasons why you believe the Ombudsman failed to follow the correct process. Your review request must identify one or more of the following criteria:
- we made our decision based on inaccurate facts that could change our decision or
- you have new and relevant information that was not previously available and which might change our decision or
- we overlooked or misunderstood parts of your complaint or did not take account of relevant information, which could change our decision.
This brings us to the first loophole PHSO use to turn down review requests. If you say that the facts were inaccurate and point out the correct ones – they will say that they have taken this into account but it does not alter their decision = no review. If you say they have overlooked or misunderstood parts of your complaint they will say that they took all relevant information into account = no review. The best chance of a review is to provide new and relevant information that was not previously available. They cannot deny that it is new, but they can deny that it is relevant so you are in with half a chance.
The review basically looks at whether the assessor followed procedure and ignores the logic of the decision-making process. Regardless of how carefully you construct your review request PHSO will most likely fail to understand the nature of your complaint and request further clarification.
Many review requests are turned down on the basis that they don’t meet the criteria and the all-encompassing ‘nothing more we could do’ excuse. PHSO review all their own work (aka mark their own homework) following a decision in 2017, when Rob Behrens took over, to stop using any external reviewers. So they can essentially set their own ‘error rate’.
The second loophole is that you can only have one review. It is, therefore, impossible to make a complaint about the review process itself. So if the review team completely miss the point in their analysis of your case any complaint you make about them will be rejected on the grounds that you have already received a review and to carry out another would take scarce resources away from other users of the service. RAFT will simply drop your case and refuse further contact even though you continue to disagree and continue to provide evidence to support your claim.
However, when the public body disagrees then PHSO holds onto the report until it can reach a position of compliance rather than publish a report which will be ignored by that body (as it has a right to do under the law). Rob Behrens has threatened to ‘name and shame’ bodies who don’t comply with PHSO findings but conceded at the PACAC scrutiny meeting in January 2019 that he has yet to do so.
Basically, the odds are stacked against you. A recent FOI request has provided evidence that in 2016-17 only 8 reviews led to a new investigation from a total of 2,352 review requests and even then none of the new investigations led to a change in the decision. customer_care_appeals
Be wary of words such as ‘transparent’, ‘accountable’, ‘robust’ and ‘customer focused’ as PHSO use their own definitions for these terms. If you manage to get a review the initial decision is often upheld again some many months later using arbitrary or illogical reasons and ignoring the evidence you have sent in. Now you are at the end of the road. It is impossible to challenge the review process, even if you have clear evidence of manipulation of the facts. The Ombudsman is omnipotent and unaccountable. Your only option now is to challenge the decision via Judicial Review