By Minh Alexander NHS whistleblower and former consultant psychiatrist 4 November 2016
The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman’s (PHSO) role in protecting NHS organisations from proper accountability has been questioned by many.
In its recent report “Learning from mistakes”, the PHSO seems avoidant of acknowledging NHS cover ups, or their political roots. In the case of three year old Sam Morrish’s death, PHSO’s tortuous language and logic draws an implausible distinction between “total unwillingness” by organisations to accept they are wrong, and cover up.
PHSO’s report focuses on lack of investigatory competence by NHS organisations, rather than obstinate, repeated failures of enforcement of good investigation practice by the DH and its arms length bodies.
Does the PHSO treat NHS overlords more lightly than the rank and file of NHS bodies?
There is not a complete dataset published by PHSO to precisely calculate how these rates compare to the overall average for all NHS bodies. The data that exists raises the possibility that PHSO may be less likely to uphold complaints against the DH and its arms length bodies than other NHS bodies. In rough terms the 4 years of PHSO published data on its handling of complaints about all NHS bodies , bar DH and regulators, yield an overall uphold rate of 2.6%.
RATE OF COMPLAINTS UPHELD BY PHSO:
I have submitted this data to parliament as part of evidence to Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee’s follow up inquiry on PHSO’s report “Learning from Mistakes”, which can be summarised thus:
Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee
4 November 2016
Dear Mr Jenkin and colleagues,
Submission to PACAC inquiry on PHSO and NHS investigations
Please find attached my submission to PACAC’s follow up inquiry on PHSO’s report about NHS investigations, “Learning from Mistakes”.
I lay out evidence to argue that PHSO needs to acknowledge and grasp more firmly the fact that cover ups whether by omission or commission, and not just lack of investigatory competence, are a major factor in failures of NHS learning.
I ask PACAC to support substantive reform of whistleblower protection, and also the Hillsborough Law (Public Authorities Accountability Bill) which seeks criminal penalties for cover ups by public servants.
I suggest that the PHSO is avoidant of the fact that NHS cover ups come from the top. I also add some data which, although incomplete, raises questions about whether the PHSO is more lenient in its handling of complaints about the Department of Health and its arms length bodies – pages 4 and 5.
I have also submitted this evidence via the PACAC web portal.
Dr Minh Alexander
cc Meg Hillier Chair of Public Accounts Committee
Sarah Wollaston Chair of Health Committee”
 PHSO FOI disclosure: complaints about DH 2010/11 to 2015/16
 PHSO FOI disclosure: complaints about NHS England 2013/14 to 2016/17 year to date
 PHSO FOI disclosure: complaints about CQC 2009-2015
 PHSO data on all NHS complaints 2014/15
PHSO data on all NHS complaints 2012/13
PHSO data on all NHS complaints 2011/12
PHSO data on all NHS complaints 2010/11