Evidence for the Parliamentary & Health Service Ombudsman 2019/20
Let me start by going off script slightly and expressing my surprise that although this organisation brands itself as fair and impartial and accessible to all without prejudice. Yet, fails to put this into practice by adopting the gender equal term of ‘Ombuds’ rather than OmbudsMAN.
a) KPI no 1 2019/20
i) PHSO will improve the quality of the service, while remaining independent, impartial and fair
My just short of a decade’s experience in poor complaint handling always leads to me question wooly, open to interpretation statements. As this statement does not clarify just who PHSO wish to improve the quality of service for. In my humble opinion, PHSO often confuse the concept of independence in a democracy and independence in an autocracy.
This is reflected in the incomplete & confusing data capturing of their service activity monitoring. Which makes is impossible to objectively access the quality of the service they provide. I asked this question in the evidence I presented to PACAC last year. The same questions about the reliability of the data produced by PHSO has been questioned by the respected journalist, Bruce Newsome of the Critic.
Objectively, to be told by PHSO on 4 occasions that I needed to go back and ask the 8 hospitals to reinvestigate the new information I had uncovered from 03/2016. For this contact to be given two case reference numbers. Whilst being reassured that the one-year time limit would not apply. Then for the Ombuds to fail to apply their legal powers of discretion and to refuse to investigate the 2 cases I brought to PHSO in 2019, thrown out for being out of the one year since the harm was brought to my attention. AKA Section 9.4 of the Health Commissioners Act. Has to be one of the better adaptations of the words ‘fair and impartial’. But kudos to PHSO for allowing their staff the independence to manage their workload in this creative manner.
Based on my expert by experience status of PHSO’s fairly creative use of the definition of independence, approach to data capturing and adherence to their policies and legal obligations. It would be fair to give a big thumbs up to their success at meeting the PHSO definition of this KPI.
ii) Pilot the use of mediation and other early resolution methods
I requested mediation in March 2020 to break the deadlock of months of strategic misunderstanding by a PHSO caseworker of the facts of my case. This was declined by a PHSO operations manager. Who then gave the caseworker permission to close my case, (which after another sterling effort on my part, was reopened)?
Leading me to conclude that this pilot has been grounded and this KPI has not been achieved
b) KPI no 2 2019/20
i) To increase the transparency and impact of PHSO casework
Subjectively, the impact of dealing with the last chance at justice, becomes transparently clear after a couple of email exchanges. PHSO’s frequent use of the red flag professional behaviour tactics of delays, minimisation, mental filter of information and denial. And when this is challenged gaslighting, humiliation, blame&shame. Followed by honey potting, then ghosting. Makes the Game of Thrones look positively Disney. Objectively, my experiences are replicated on trustpilot, twitter, facebook and the recently published ‘what is the point of the ombuds’ by Della Reynolds.
ii) PHSO will publish an annual report on the complaints we receive about the health system.
Unless this is published on the dark web, protected by a firewall or five. This KPI was not achieved either.
It would not be an over exaggeration to state that PHSO have yet to reach the base camp of their Himalayan size expedition to be transparent and objective.
c) Staff management and training.
It makes me question what professional attributes and staff development the Ombuds looks for, when the approach of PHSO management is to cascade complaints about staff and managers ‘putting the victim on trial’. To the individuals concerned to ask them to investigate themselves, who, predictably, always arrive at the conclusion that their conduct is beyond reproach.
Based on my experiences, I must assume that the management style and training of PHSO staff is perfectly suited to the agenda of PHSO.
ii) Value for Money
How can this question be answered when there is no robust data published on PHSO’s activities. To reach any objective conclusion. But if all caseworkers take nine months to realise that Section 9.4 of the Health Commissioners Act makes complaint out of time and therefore not suitable for an investigation when all that is required is the use of subtraction of the date of contact with PHSO minus the date of the NHS final complaint outcome. (Please note, I did not include the discretionary powers of the Ombuds under this Act. As I do not have any data or word of mouth recommendations to support this power is in use.)
Then PHSO do not provide value for money.
iii) Impact on other organisations.
Based on my four-year nightmare of the Catch22 of Health Services refusing to investigate and PHSO refusing to investigate until the Health Service had completed their investigation/s. I must presume that the ‘threat’ of a telling off by PHSO has zero impact on reining in the poor complaint handling and breaches of the NHS Complaint legislation made by the Health Services.
PHSO’s ‘strategic’ impact to encourage positive change for the benefit of people like myself on other professional organisations, is zero.
iv) The PHSO’s provision of reasonable adjustments to service users.
I asked PHSO for a reasonable adjustment as per Regulation 19 of the Equalities Act 2010, in August 2019. It took until November 2019 for PHSO to acknowledge and act on this. It was necessary for me to remind PHSO of their legal obligations to provide this adjustment in March 2020. And again, in May 2020, when PHSO closed one of my two cases without following their own reasonable adjustment policy. I am still waiting for a response to my emails of 23 and 28 October 2020. As PHSO have again failed to provide reasonable adjustments in how I can contact them with my concerns that my second case was closed on the grounds that my four contacts with PHSO did not meet Section 9.4 of the Health Commissioners Act.
Unless PHSO are independent of the laws of the land, their repeated failure to adhere to the provisions of the Equalities Act is scandalous.
v) The time taken for the PHSO to respond to correspondence, including Subject Access Requests and Freedom of Information requests.
Response times vary from instantaneous when PHSO wishes to reprimand me for making PHSO staff feel uncomfortable with my use of the truth or humour. To slightly longer than the Geological concept of ‘eons’, when PHSO are required to clarify subject matter.
From a service user perspective, another PHSO failure to adhere to its Service User Charter.
I look forward to PACAC:
1.Robustly auditing the data capturing processes of PHSO.
2.Requesting the numbers of complaints not investigated on the basis that the complaint is out of time aka Section 9.4 of the Health Commissioners Act and the reasons PHSO gave for not exercising their power of discretion to waive this time limit in every case that this Section of the Act was used.
Thank You for acting upon my concerns.