Reform of the Ombudsman was identified in the recent Queen’s Speech. The Cabinet Office under the guidance of Chris Skidmore has put forward a draft legislation for the scrutiny of the House. This is the first fundamental changes to legislation since 1967 and it is important that we use this opportunity to ensure that the reformed Ombudsman service works to protect the citizens and not the public bodies. Consequently, the PHSO Pressure Group have compiled three key objectives for reform and we are currently lobbying MPs and other interested bodies for support in achieving these objectives.
PHSO Pressure Group reform objectives:
- Within the Single Public Service Ombudsman sphere there should be a designated Health Service Ombudsman for England in line with devolution. This body should be staffed by healthcare professionals and guided by legal experts with the remit to deal with complaints from primary, secondary and social care sectors. Best practice should be guided by the new Healthcare Safety Investigation Board (HSIB).
- To restore public confidence there must be improved accountability with an independent external review process for complaints made about the Ombudsman and independent external audit of decisions and reports in line with recommendations made by the Health Select Committee report Complaints and Raising Concerns (January 2015). Parliament should also be given greater powers of scrutiny through an appropriate select committee.
- As the Ombudsman is the final arbitrator, this body must have both the power and the expertise to identify legal breaches. Any legal breach or breach of policy should automatically be determined as grounds to uphold.
- It should be an option to approach the Ombudsman after 30 days if no satisfaction is provided by the public body. Early mediation should be offered for those who wish to take a more informal route to resolution and advocacy provided to support complainants through this process.