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'No confidence' in NHS ombudsman, says patient group

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A patients’ rights charity has said it has “no confidence” in the independent NHS ombudsman to investigate individuals’ complaints about the health service.

The Patients Association has released a report into what it claims are failures by the Parliamentary Health Service Ombudsman, Dame Julie Mellor, to handle complaints of poor care by families, who they say have been “let down”.

“We have no confidence in the PHSO to carry out an independent, fair, open, honest and robust investigation”

Jacqueline Coles

The PHSO’s office, the last resort for those complaining about unfair or poor service from the NHS in England, is undergoing a modernisation scheme and last month revealed it had investigated 2,199 cases in 2013-14 – six times more than the previous year.

But in the report Patients Association deputy chief executive Jacqueline Coles said it had “failed to adapt” to modern demands and they would no longer be referring callers on the charity’s helpline to the watchdog.

“For many years we have advised people who had contacted our national helpline to go to the PHSO when they have received an unsatisfactory response from their local health service providers,” she said.

“Sadly we can no longer recommend this course of action to patients, as we have no confidence in the PHSO to carry out an independent, fair, open, honest and robust investigation,” said Ms Coles.

Dame Julie Mellor

Dame Julie Mellor

“It leaves the victims and families seeking help regarding health concerns cold, alone and frozen out. The PHSO fails them on a regular basis,” she added.

The report cites the case of Sam Morrish, who died in 2010 from a treatable condition due to multiple health service failings and whose parents said they felt “failed” by the complaints process after it took four years for the PHSO to publish its findings.

The association’s report recommends an overhaul of the ombudsman to improve investigation timescales, contact with patients and a code of practice.

A PHSO spokesman told the BBC: “We have embarked on a radical modernisation drive which includes listening to feedback from users.

“We are delighted that the Patients Association has agreed to help us draw up a service charter, which will be a set of promises to users about what they can expect when they use our service,” he said.

  • 2 Comments

Readers' comments (2)

  • michael stone

    I was listening to this on BBC Radio 4 this morning: my conclusion, when I complained to the PHSO ca late 2009, was that it didn't 'investigate' but just 'ticked-boxes', and was biased towards the position put forward by whichever NHS organisation was involved.

    So although I'm not surprised by 'the PHSO doesn't work now', I was surprised by the claim made of R4 that it was working okay in previous years.

    One issue, is that the lay complainant has got no real idea, of how 'the process works' [being involved for the first time] whereas the NHS body understands that 'process' - so the NHS side, is much better at 'playing the system'.

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  • Very, very recently because my relative is receiving lamentable care from the nhs Clinical Commissioning Group and the care home for which, theoretically, it is the supervisory body, I complained to the PHSO who sent me a complaints form.

    Upon inspection, the complaints form confined the complaint to the care providers, that is the owners of the care home. Tricksy PHSO…. Your salaries are paid by the public. Try doing what you are paid to do in your job description, not what your corrupt, deviant, ignorant bosses tell you to do.

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