PHSO Annual Scrutiny 2016–17 Contents


1.The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (the Ombudsman) combines the statutory roles of Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration and Health Service Commissioner for England.1 As such the Ombudsman adjudicates on complaints that have not been resolved by the NHS in England and UK Government Departments. The post is currently held by Rob Behrens. There are separate ombudsman arrangements for local government services in England and for public services provided by the devolved governments.

2.The Ombudsman is supported by an organisation with approximately 475 staff and an annual budget of approximately £35m, also known as the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.2 For clarity, in this report we refer to Mr Behrens as “the Ombudsman” and the organisation he leads as the PHSO. Amanda Campbell is the Chief Executive of the PHSO.

3.The Ombudsman has discretion to choose which complaints he investigates. In 2016–17 he received 31,444 new complaints, of which he assessed 8,119 as being cases he could investigate.3 PHSO completed investigations into 3,767 cases in 2016–17.4

4.The Ombudsman is independent of the Government, the NHS and Parliament. He is accountable to Parliament, through the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC), for the overall performance of the PHSO and for its use of resources.5 This has traditionally been through an annual evidence session based on the PHSO annual report and accounts. The Committee does not inquire into individual cases. However, the Ombudsman can lay reports before Parliament, often to highlight cases that he feels raise issues of wider concern. One such report was Ignoring the Alarms: How NHS eating disorder services are failing patients, laid before Parliament on 8 December 2017.6

5.Mr Behrens took up the role of Ombudsman in April 2017 following a joint pre-appointment hearing with PACAC and the Health Select Committee.7 He replaced Dame Julie Mellor who resigned in July 2016, because of the criticism of her handling of the appointment of the deputy Ombudsman, but stayed in post until her successor was appointed.8

6.The Committee held its annual scrutiny session with the Ombudsman and Amanda Campbell on 12 December 2017. It focussed on the PHSO’s annual report for 2016–17, the final year of Dame Julie Mellor’s period in office, and the new strategic plan for the period 2018 to 2021 published for consultation by Mr Behrens in November 2017. Prior to the evidence session, the Committee accepted 38 written submissions from individuals and organisations relating to their experience of the PHSO as complainants. The Committee is thankful to all those who submitted evidence.

1 Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, “Who we are” accessed 09 February 2018.

2 Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, “The Ombudsman’s Annual Report and Accounts”, HC207, 18 July 2017, p 60 & 67

3 Ibid pp 6–12

4 ibid

5 House of Commons “Standing Orders (Public Business)” HC 4, April 2017, Standing Order 146

7 Health and Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committees, fifth report of the Health Committee and eighth report of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee of Session 2016–17 “Appointment of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, HC 810, 19 January 2017.

8 Alex Alan “Report of a Review into Issues Concerning the PHSO” 13 September 2016

24 April 2018