It’s not only MPs who ‘mark their own homework’.

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman handle all complaints about themselves internally.   The Head of the Review team, Suzannah Beazley is regularly called upon to decide whether she has been guilty of service delivery failure and unsurprisingly finds there is no case to answer.

I know from my own complaint against her that she is unable to see the wood for the trees.  In usual PHSO style Ms. Beazley fails to identify the main points and focuses instead on minor issues which she can explain away.   Job done and filed in ‘no action required’.

Perhaps this is just a case of sour grapes on my part.  Stung once again by the Ombudsman’s ability to manipulate the facts and protect the public body.  Well let’s look at the evidence:

Dear Amiee Gasston worked her socks off to answer this FOI request. 


“I have manually searched through the data we hold relating to service complaints received in 2012, and have concluded that we received 73 complaints about individual members of staff. Of these, 6 were upheld in full and 8 were upheld in part. 3 complaints were withdrawn and 56 complaints were not upheld.”

By marking their own homework PHSO fail to uphold 76% of complaints made against staff members and if you take out the 3 withdrawn cases, which were presumably never investigated, the percentage comes to pleasingly round 80%.

What Amiee failed to address in her response was that in the year 2012 there were actually 440 service complaints broken into categories.  This information was in an attachment.   It is not clear how many of these complaints were upheld, but I think it safe to go with the same ratio of 80/20 against. 

So what sort of things do people complain about?

If you have ever used the Ombudsman service you will not be surprised by any of the items on this list.

  • 34 people complained that PHSO failed to address every aspect of their complaint.   (Deny the easy bits and ignore the indisputable facts)
  • 34 complained that the decision was expressed unclearly in the decision letter.  (They have trouble justifying a whitewash)
  • 60 said there were spelling/typographical/factual errors in the decision letter.  (Think we can safely assume that most people complained about the factual errors which are caused by PHSO manipulating the evidence to find no case to answer)
  • 18 complained there was no contact with complainant (Even if they do contact you they take no notice of anything you say)
  • 42 people said there was a poor audit trail on VF  (VF is the visual file used by PHSO to keep track of your case.  You would only know what is recorded here by asking for a Subject Access Request)
  • 20 found that PHSO misinterpreted evidence and 28 that they failed to understand the complaint.  (Why can’t PHSO staff follow basic facts?)
  • 25 complained that PHSO failed to coordinate with other bodies.  (No need to check facts when you make the facts up yourself)
  • 39 said that PHSO failed to follow guidance and 11 that the response was not evidence based.  (They probably followed the unwritten guidance –  find no case to answer, which then requires a denial of the evidence)

Given that many people drop out of the complaint system by this stage, desperate to reclaim their lives and stop the pain of continually hitting their head against a brick wall.  These figures represent a large number of people who felt strongly enough to put pen to paper once again.  Perhaps 2012 was a difficult year.  They were after all in ‘transition’.

But no, if we look at the figures for 2011, there were 316 complaints made and all the usual suspects appear;  48 – failure to address every aspect of the case, 33 – decision letter expressed unclearly, 54 – factual errors …..  

so much for ‘lessons learnt’.

But then of course you can’t learn any lessons while you continually find yourself free from error and so the sorry saga goes on and all at the taxpayer’s expense.  

Ombudsman coverup