Meeting with Mick Martin – Managing Director of PHSO

Mick Martin from his LinkedIn profile.

Mick Martin from his LinkedIn profile.

It was a week of promises.  The Scots were being offered a listening ear from Westminster and the promise of political reform.  ‘We are hearing you,’ was the message as the near-miss Scottish bid for independence shook those in power out of their usual stupor.

Similarly there were promises on the table at PHSO when I went to visit Mr. Martin, the new(ish) Managing Director.  Do not be fooled by his casual appearance in this photo.  Mr. Martin is a force for change.

He was ‘Quality and Service Integrity Director’ at The Post Office from 2009 – 2011. Integrity is something he will need in spades if he is to persuade the public that the Ombudsman can change its spots.  But high up the list of his top skills are ‘customer service’ and ‘change management’ giving him all the credentials he needs to drag PHSO into the modern age of customer focus.

I first met Mr. Martin at the Pressure Group seminar in June.  He concluded that meeting with his own thoughts from the day and convinced me then that he was a different animal to the run of the mill, shut you down, no action required, PHSO employee.  In fact I was impressed by all the management staff who listened attentively that day.  They listened, they talked among themselves and now, three months later. we were to hear the outcome of their deliberations.

We sat in his office in Millbank Tower.  If there was a view of the Thames it was obscured by the array of coloured post-it notes which dotted every available space in the room.  Red for action, green for consideration and yellow for …. joy?   There was no doubt that he had his work cut out.  He informed me that PHSO were changing, were listening and responding.  There was to be no more shut down for dissatisfied customers.  On-going customer care at the post-review stage would put an end to the  ‘no acknowledgement required’ rubber stamp. This was a very positive start I thought.  But can he deliver?

Previous meetings with management at PHSO have led me to believe that senior staff share a collective delusion that all problems were in the past, all criticism can be countered by data and the simple act of investigating more cases will make everyone happy.  Happy customers, happy staff and happy politicians.  A bit like the pigs on Animal Farm they have become detached from the hard daily grind and partake of ethereal discussions using management speak.   If Mr. Martin is to achieve his objective of modernising this service he will have to start by removing those blinkers.

PHSO Staff Survey

PHSO Staff Survey 2013

The staff survey should have given them a bit of a clue that things aren’t working.  Trust in management appears to be at an all-time low.  They have a staff turn-over rate of 21% which must affect both speed and quality of investigations.

The Health Select Committee is due to report soon on their inquiry into NHS complaint handling and hot on their heels the Cabinet Office will deliver government proposals into changes to the Ombudsman landscape.   It would appear that PHSO is under pressure from all sides.  So what did Mr. Martin offer as a way forward?  He offered to listen.

Members of the Pressure Group do indeed hold the gold-dust of experience.  We know what it feels like to go through the sausage machine of the PHSO process and emerge mangled and bruised on the other side.  We know what went wrong and what is needed to put it right.  To all of this Mr. Martin will listen, then no doubt construct more post-it notes.  He won’t get it all right and he won’t do it all straight away.  However, I believe that he is a man of integrity and I am happy to take the olive branch of continued dialogue with a willingness for us to work together to improve this service for those who receive it and those who deliver it.  I’ll even bring my own post-its.



25 thoughts on “Meeting with Mick Martin – Managing Director of PHSO

  1. Mr Martin appears to have the intent to make change actually happen at PHSO, my concern is that he will be frustrated at the entrenched behaviours of those indoctrinated in the policy of delay and deny.

    • He certainly has his work cut out as there are a large number of management staff still with their heads in the sand. In the words of Sam Cooke – ‘it’s been a long, a long time coming, but change is gonna come, oh yes it is’.

  2. Change is a gonna come Della but I just worry what the focus is,,,the general election or the wellbeing of UK citizens? The manner of Mick Martin is certainly much better than before and if his listening skills are apparent too then maybe just maybe theres hope! Like your initial commenter I hope ” the entrenched behaviours of those indoctrinated in the policy of delay, deny and defend don’t squash his initial enthusiasm. Mike Martin will do very well to listen to our golddust comments and really learn right lessons.

  3. Certainly is a welcome improvement, shame I’ve just had a standard fob off letter, not to worry, I’m writing again this week included in my letter will be a reference of your meeting with Mr martin, I can only hope they will actually do something this time.

    • What they say and what they do are often very different things, as I’m sure you know. We have had promises but no delivery so far. If you don’t get any joy then join the Pressure Group. Together we have a louder voice. Good luck.

  4. Well, after reading the comments made by Mr martin from phso in your article dated sept 14 I decided to write (again) to the phso to request they review my case. Yesterday (8 April 15) I received a reply. To my amazement they are going to review my case! Although I do not hold out much hope of them changing there mind (1.6% chance is better than none!) The timeline: Nov 13 investigation by phso completed and finalised. Everything held in my favour with the exception of one part.Jan 14 requested a review. The reply ” no new evidence” April 14 wrote again same evidence slightly re worded. The reply ” no new evidence, let’s bring this case to an end”. October 14 after reading your article quoting mr martin from phso. I submitted another request for a review using the quote. Feb 15 nothing heard from phso, email sent requesting reply. April 15 apology from phso, then informs me that they have decided to review areas of my case stating this can take four months, however they will try to complete within 4 weeks. Before i close,i have not changed the content or reasons why i have requested a review.Thank you dellar and your team – alex

    • Glad to be of help Alex. Now let me look into my crystal ball and predict the outcome for you. There is every possibility that after four months (or more) PHSO will get back to you and say ‘We accept that we could have handled this better, however this does not affect our final decision’. ‘Thank you very much, case closed’. Do let me know if I was right.

      • Well in all probability (98.4%) your prediction will be correct. However, I am still in shock after 16 months of trying to get them to even look at my case again is too me, amazing even if it is lip service. They have said that they intend to complete the review within 4 weeks, yes 4 weeks! I have supplied all the relevant information they need to react including all the names and even more important, the written regulations that prove my case in my favour. Then again being a realist I haven’t much faith in them coming to the correct decision. Alex

          • It will be my pleasure, am emailing them in the morning to suggest a meeting to assist in their investigation. What do you think?

          • I doubt they will want to meet you, but worth a try. To be honest a meeting is not always very helpful. The difficulty is not in what they say but what they do. Pinning them down to make evidence based decisions is the problem. Good luck. I’m interested in the outcome.

  5. I for one, cannot see any end to the PHSO not being fit for anything.

    After the PHSO advised me in 1 yr, case worker had asked nothing from the Trust, about legally required papers, saying it showed flaw in the Investigator’s.
    I asked to see Martin or Mr Roper, & PHSO legal dept. TO EXPLAIN ( no reply)

    For the first time in a year, a senior manager, advised, she would direct her case reviewer, to ask the Trust for specific written legal clarifications & confirmation documents & sworn affidavit, about file destruction , & also of destruction of email, & electronic records, as has been ordered to be destroyed.

    The manager advised me Friday that after 3 weeks Trust have not replied.
    That investigator was off, so she could not get an update what he has done.

    Today I spoke with the case handler, & asked for a copy of his PHSO letter to the Trust, asking for the legal docs & certifications above etc, he advised,
    ** he had only made a tel call request **, & he would have to get instructions if he could write to me to state exactly what he has now asked from the Trust about my case.

    He could not explain, why PHSO make a tel request ??, when he knew the Trust is in mass breach of NHS rules & regs, & protocols.

    I do ask that he is removed from my case, & that his manger H.B takes over.

  6. Well, how things have changed from first impressions:

    He was ‘Quality and Service Integrity Director’ at The Post Office from 2009 – 2011. Integrity is something he will need in spades if he is to persuade the public that the Ombudsman can change its spots. But high up the list of his top skills are ‘customer service’ and ‘change management’ giving him all the credentials he needs to drag PHSO into the modern age of customer focus.

    Mick Martin’s lack of integrity has now been fully displayed Interesting comment:

    On September 17, 2013, Helen tabled an official grievance against the trust. Instead of undertaking an independent investigation, the trust held a review by a former friend of its vice chairman Mick Martin. It was deemed “woefully inadequate” by the tribunal. “To this day no one has been disciplined over this”

    “There were a number of times when they could have done the right thing, even just saying sorry, but no one did.

    “There was an element of machismo within the organisation which was something I was trying to address. In the end I fell foul of it. Sadly I never realised just how hostile it was.

    Members of PHSO the Facts can relate to Helen’s experience, Mick Martin’s and his teams input to our complaints has been “woefully inadequate”. Nothing has changed we are left feeling even more dissatisfied. The question now, is this “Corrupt by Design”?

    The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC), headed by Mr Bernard Jenkin need to consider whether this gentleman has the personal characteristics to continue in his role as Deputy Ombudsman:

    “Unquestionable personal integrity”
    “Ability to think and act objectively and independently”
    “Commitment to high standards of public administration and public service delivery”
    “A strong sense of what is right and fair”

    If Mick Martin still has the ability to inspire confidence in Parliament, he certainly has failed to impress us as members of the general public. If he still has the ability to inspire confidence with bodies in jurisdiction, the only conclusion is this is “Corruption by design”.

    Hopefully, the PACAC will take action to show the general public they do not believe Mr Martin has the professional competence and personal independence necessary to fulfil his role as Deputy Ombudsman.

  7. I’ve just uncovered oral evidence Mick Martin gave to the House of Lords on 1 December 2015:

    All his hot air and lies about PHSO casework ensuring compliance with the law, policies, etc, etc. Read it and weep.

    It’s simply not right that the HoL should swallow and publish these false statements when the vast majority of complainants, if asked, could produce evidence to prove the deception and lies.

  8. For those who don’t want to open the above HoL link and wade through the whole of the referenced oral evidence, here are Mick Martin’s statements:

    “We think the ombudsman service has an important role in ensuring that organisations meet their requirements. The way we do that is by making sure, when we look at the complaints that come to us, that we are looking at all the legislation, all the policies, all the requirements that the organisation should have been adhering to when providing the public sector experience that the individual has come to us about. We find, very often, that that has not been the case.
    We see our role as looking at each of those individual experiences on the merits as they come to us, investigating what should have happened, what did happen, looking for the gaps, which includes all the issues that would be covered by the Act. Our focus is not simply to identify if the organisation has failed to meet those obligations, but also to evaluate what learning and improvement is needed locally, so that not only does the individual who has come to us with the complaint experience the improvement, but thereafter the organisation demonstrates that they have changed their practice, so people who come afterwards get the appropriate treatment.
    ……Our priority is always about making sure that we are looking to what has happened for the individual and, where necessary, getting justice for the individual who has come to us, but we believe the ombudsman’s role is much more than that. It is also about pulling out the learning and insight that comes from the cases we are seeing, and engaging and working with public organisations to identify what can be done to improve services.
    ….We err on the side of trying to gather as much information as possible about not only what has happened but why it has happened, so we can then start to provide our insight and support for improvement.
    ….Whereas we are not the courts and therefore enforcing the law, and we are not commenting on, for example, government policy on how the law is provided, we are focused on learning, making sure people get a full explanation and making sure that, where there are problems, they are addressed.
    It is a very important part of our investigative work to make sure we reflect the legal environment and the precedents coming out of court cases when evaluating whether an organisation has or has not complied with the requirements that we would expect. I would go a bit sideways and say that it is about evaluating whether or not things happened as they should do, but it is also about making sure we are doing that in accordance with what other professional bodies, in addition to the law, require. ….
    Where we find examples of poor practice and point them out, all three of those approaches are available to us to progress. If we feel it is appropriate to refer it for more legal action, for example, we have a small legal department that ensures we keep abreast of legal developments. We have relationships with all the professional bodies.
    As an ombudsman, it is really important to stress that, in doing our work, we are also able to provide assurance to the citizen that they had the service they should have expected, that the organisation did comply with the policies, practices and legislation. It is really important, for our role as an independent and impartial body, that we are as focused on assuring people that the service provider was [as] good as we are at looking to find fault.”

    Note the last self-congratulatory sentence “[as] good as we are at looking to find fault”. Unbelievable.

    • This part is pure fantasy: “As an ombudsman, it is really important to stress that, in doing our work, we are also able to provide assurance to the citizen that they had the service they should have expected, that the organisation did comply with the policies, practices and legislation.” Ofqual did not comply with the policies and legislation in my case, but stated they were only guidelines so they didn’t have to take any action. They also bullied the PHSO caseworker informing her at the start of the investigation that they would take no action regardless of the outcome and reserved their right to take legal action for bias. Not only is the Ombudsman held in low esteem by the public who have been badly let down, but can be bullied by public body legal departments who are aware that it is a toothless watchdog.

  9. Well, just over 12 months ago I wrote on this site, informing that the phso had decided to have another look at my case. Great I thought.
    As I hadn’t heard from them by October I wrote a letter to them requesting an update – just the normal reply that they had received my letter. Several email and letters later I called the phso only to be told that there computer was down, could I call them later. Instead I sent an email – once again the standard reply. By April it was time to ring, perhaps this time I would be given update as to the state of my appeal. After 10 mins they finally put me through to a lady who informed me that they had investigated my complaint and had informed me by letter (seemingly to the wrong address) They consider my case is closed!
    After 10 mins or so and getting nowhere I asked her to resend the letter they had stated the had sent, together with the reasons why they hadnt answered any of my letters/ emails. She agreed , well still waiting …. Anyone else had the same ?

    • You have suffered appalling service from PHSO. Yet, still they argue that their change programme is delivering and they are satisfied with their customer satisfaction levels. I’m going to copy this comment to the ‘What people say about PHSO’ page as more people need to be aware of the cavalier way PHSO treat the public.

    • Despite stopping my case as no case ?, I found it had never investigated,
      That then caused a new investigation.

      Now the final outcome, I was denied compensation as they ordered the Trust to do an action plan ??, The PHSO ordered the Trust to explain what went wrong with my case, & compile a plan of action so it cannot happen again.

      Yet I found, the PHSO investigator TOLD the Trust “NOT” to detail anything, give no specifics or any proper answers. In any event,
      That 1st part of the action plan missed the PHSO deadline.

      To the written gaurentee that in future all manual & electronic files will be destroyed when told to do so by the ICO. Despite already having months, & two years since it would destroy everything in 2013, the Trust in 2016 asked for more time to comply, another time extension was given. However a week after that new deadline the Trust have still failed to comply.

      It is always me that has to Notify the PHSO of the non compliance,
      The PHSO said it will consider its response to failure to act. & ring me back, this they never do. The PHSO is a joke, & is set up against the public interest..

      • I would be interested to see the correspondence between PHSO and the trust. This should be sent directly to Bernard Jenkin at PACAC and also to Sir Alex Allan as part of his inquiry. Massive collusion to deny justice.

    • Nothing has changed, had a very similar experience in 2008. The “Principles” openness, honesty and transparency have always been missing. The PHSO is purported to be an independent body, yet during the consultation period for the draft charter for the new PSO they asked the government and were refused the freedom to publish reports, findings and recommendations without laying before the Westminster Parliament – this is “corruption by design”. Unless there is radical change there will never be a better ombudsman service, conforming to the “principles of good complaint handling”. Public bodies will continue to be a law unto themselves, the citizen will continue to suffer, parliament will fall further into disrepute.

      • This is the fundamental problem Jill. The Ombudsman is not free of government control yet when the government are called upon to hold the Ombudsman to account they deem it ‘an independent body’ beyond their remit. It is a tool of government used on a daily basis to deny justice and close down legitimate complaint. Corrput by design and the new PSO looks to be going the same way with political appointment to the non-exec oversight body. Totally inappropriate.

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