NHS Ombudsman criticised as 'wholly ineffective and failing families'.

Tue 18th November 2014

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) - the independent service that investigates patient complaints – has come under fire after the Patients Association revealed that it receives weekly calls from patients who feel let down by the service and as a result no longer directs callers to its national helpline to use the service. 

Paul Clark, CEO of Charter UK, said it was a matter for serious concern that the effectiveness of a body that serves to act as a final arbitrator for complaints about the NHS had been called into question. "We've long said that the public sector is very good at regulating others, yet seems unable to regulate itself," he stated. 

"Furthermore, there is widespread recognition that complaints handling across the NHS needs radical transformation, after numerous tax payer funded enquiries we are left with recommendation after recommendation, but no real drivers for change or a regulatory framework that can enforce it. Now we have the Patients Association publically calling into question the effectiveness of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO). When is enough going to be enough?'' 

"The NHS runs a fantastic service but like any business or service, you cannot get things right 100 per cent of the time. Patients have a right to know that if and when problems do arise they will be adequately investigated and resolved. However, if they are dissatisfied with a Trust's decision, they must have confidence that the Ombudsman will properly evaluate what has occurred. Yet, the Patients Association says it receives weekly calls from patients who feel this hasn't happened.'' 

Mr Clark suggested the PHSO adapt its current approach by requiring the burden of proof to lie with The Trust. "The current set up of the PHSO makes this point all too clear by relying on families of patients to produce evidence of poor practice. It is the trusts themselves that should be forced to evidence their own behaviour, proving that they have acted fairly and appropriately. Who is going to ensure that the health service oversight remains fit for purpose, if not the Ombudsman itself?''