The national Ombudsman delivers an “efficient, enhanced and effective modern service”, according to the first ever peer review undertaken under the auspices of the International Ombudsman Institute (IOI).
The review of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) also found that it provides significant value for stakeholders and has become a much stronger organisation since a previous independent peer review in 2018.
The IOI-led review found the Ombudsman “provides a high-quality service and is a robust institution”. Aspects of training constitute a “leading innovation and goes beyond what other Ombudsman offices internationally both provide and require”.
The panel of independent accredited reviewers highlighted that “the work and role of PHSO is made more challenging for the organisation and less accessible to the public by the lack of much-needed reform of its statutory powers and framework”. They urged the UK government to take action to reform the Ombudsman service to align it with counterparts across Europe.
The panel gave their support for the removal of the MP filter that prevents people from complaining directly to the Ombudsman and the need for a single public services Ombudsman. Both ideas have long been championed by Rob Behrens, the national Ombudsman.
He said, “I am delighted that the growth of the PHSO over the past four years has been commended and that it is recognised as a high quality and modern service. I also welcome the areas highlighted for improvement. As an organisation committed to learning, we’re always keen to find new ways to deliver the best service possible to complainants and will work hard to build further on the progress we’ve already made.”
“The peer review rightly says that the UK is out-of-step with other modern Ombudsman services in terms of our statutory framework. Without powers of own initiative, I am hamstrung from investigating many systemic issues that no one is looking at. Legislative reform of the UK Ombudsman service would mean fewer barriers to justice and more opportunities to prevent injustice happening in the future.”
The IOI panel consisted of Dr Andreas Pottakis, the Greek Ombudsman and President of the IOI Europe, Matanyahu Englman, State Comptroller and Ombudsman of Israel, Andrea Keenoy, Chief Operating Officer of the Housing Ombudsman, and Robert Thomas, Professor of Public Law at the University of Manchester.
The panel identified core strengths at the PHSO as leadership, enhanced training and accreditation, the development of Complaint Standards for the NHS and Government departments, professional development of staff, and IT. PHSO’s new quality assurance processes, its training academy and accreditation for senior caseworkers were also said to have set new and high standards in the Ombudsman sector.
Areas for development include more coaching for caseworkers, providing more personalised reports, and promoting better awareness of the Ombudsman service.
You can find the full report along with PHSO's response in the download section below and on the PHSO’s website.
Source: Office of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO), UK