Conflict of interests?

Susan Wilkinson made this Freedom of Information request to Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

Waiting for an internal review by Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman of their handling of this request.

Dear Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman,

When the PHSO begins an investigation and the NHS body involved has documented that it has received and acted upon advice on handling the case given by the PHSO advice line or corporate queries team, is there any special procedure to ensure the investigation is fair, since in these circumstances the PHSO would in fact be investigating a case in which it has played a part?

Yours faithfully,

Susan Wilkinson

foiofficer, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

Thank you for your e-mail to the Parliamentary and Health Service
Ombudsman. This return e-mail shows that we have received your
correspondence.

show quoted sections

All email communications with PHSO pass through the Government Secure
Intranet, and may be automatically logged, monitored and/or recorded for
legal purposes.
The MessageLabs Anti Virus Service is the first managed service to achieve
the CSIA Claims Tested Mark (CCTM Certificate Number 2006/04/0007), the UK
Government quality mark initiative for information security products and
services. For more information about this please visit www.cctmark.gov.uk

Della left an annotation ()

Good question Susan.

[Name Removed] (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

The PHSO seems entirely different from any other organisation and I'm wondering why this is why this has led to it having such an arrogant reputation.

If you make a complaint, the person who you make a complaint about is allowed to organise the investigation.

One of their own subordinates does the 'paperwork' . And the four complaints investigators are employed by the PHSO.

Extraordinary for the body concerned with supposedly maintaining a fair complaints system.

The main thing anyone has to understand is that the PHSO is never be wrong. So a conflict of interests simply cannot occur.

Della left an annotation ()

They always get to mark their own homework.

foiofficer, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

By email
Ms Susan Wilkinson

31 October 2013

Dear Ms Wilkinson

Your information request (FDN-174835)

Further to your email of 6 October 2013, I am writing in response to your enquiry. In your email, you wrote:

‘When the PHSO begins an investigation and the NHS body involved has documented that it has received and acted upon advice on handling the case given by the PHSO advice line or corporate queries team, is there any special procedure to ensure the investigation is fair, since in these circumstances the PHSO would in fact be investigating a case in which it has played a part?’

I have already provided you with our casework policy guidance and a customer service officer handbook in response to a previous information request (FDN-174787, available here: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/p...). As I explained, these documents provide general guidance to caseworkers and customer service officers but cannot hope to cover every eventuality which may occur in the course of their day-to-day work.

However, all PHSO employees are required to behave in line with the Ombudsman’s principles (www.ombudsman.org.uk/improving-public-service/ombudsmansprinciples), and to behave with integrity and impartiality at all times. PHSO also has a conflicts of interest policy which provides a framework for dealing with any actual or potential conflicts of interest that could arise between PHSO employees and its customers, suppliers and other stakeholders. I would be happy send you a copy of this policy if that would be helpful.

If you have concerns about the way in which a particular complaint has been dealt with by PHSO, please let us know and we will do our best to address any concerns you may have. You can contact PHSO regarding a private matter by post or email using the following contact details:

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, Millbank Tower, Millbank, London SW1P 4QP

Email: [email address]

I hope that this information is helpful.

Yours sincerely

Aimee Gasston
Freedom of Information/Data Protection Officer
Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman
W: www.ombudsman.org.uk

Please email the FOI/DP team at: [email address]

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Dear foiofficer,

Yes, I would like to see this document.

You have sent me your procedures manuals, which as I expected make no mention of advising NHS staff. You say that they can't be expected to cover "any eventuality". I would have thought that the issue as to whether an ombudsman should be advising the organisation it investigates is more serious than an "eventuality". Could you please therefore answer the following question:

Is Dame Julie Mellor aware that her staff advise NHS trusts on how to handle complaints?

Yours sincerely,

Susan Wilkinson

foiofficer, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

Thank you for your e-mail to the Parliamentary and Health Service
Ombudsman. This return e-mail shows that we have received your
correspondence.

show quoted sections

All email communications with PHSO pass through the Government Secure
Intranet, and may be automatically logged, monitored and/or recorded for
legal purposes.
The MessageLabs Anti Virus Service is the first managed service to achieve
the CSIA Claims Tested Mark (CCTM Certificate Number 2006/04/0007), the UK
Government quality mark initiative for information security products and
services. For more information about this please visit www.cctmark.gov.uk

foiofficer, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

2 Attachments

Dear Ms Wilkinson

Please find attached a copy of our conflict of interest policy guidance, as well as a document detailing definitions and examples.

Please also find below text setting out the policy statement , purpose and scope, principles, outcomes and details of monitoring and review.

Yours sincerely

Freedom of Information / Data Protection Team
Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman
W: www.ombudsman.org.uk

Please email the FOI/DP team at: [email address]

Conflict of interest policy

POLICY STATEMENT

PHSO is committed to the highest standards of ethical conduct and integrity. This policy provides a framework for dealing with any actual or potential conflicts of interest. It also provides a guide for identifying, monitoring and managing actual and potential conflicts of interest that could arise between PHSO employees and its customers, suppliers and other stakeholders. As part of this commitment, PHSO seeks to ensure that it is open and clear about any actual or potential conflicts of interest between our work and other interests and relationships.

PURPOSE AND SCOPE

This policy covers PHSO employees, including those on either permanent or fixed-term contracts and those on secondment from other organisations.

Temporary agency workers, contractors, consultants and advisers working at PHSO, in line with the principles and guidelines laid out in this policy, are required to declare any actual, or perceived, conflict of interest pertaining to the work they have been engaged to undertake.

A conflict of interest may arise from an employee's own interests or activities or from that of a member of their family or an individual with whom they have a close personal relationship.

Governance and accounting requirements mean that certain types of interests that need to be declared under this policy must also be disclosed in PHSO's Resource Accounts. This is normally restricted to the financial and commercial interests of senior managers and other key decision makers.

PRINCIPLES

The following principles apply:
PHSO's core values are Excellence, Leadership, Integrity and Diversity.

Our commitment to maintaining our integrity requires us to be open, honest and straightforward in all our dealings and to use time, money and resources effectively, so that:
we are consistent and transparent in our actions and decisions;
we take responsibility for our actions and hold ourselves accountable for all that we do;
we treat people fairly.

Employees should behave in accordance with PHSO's Code of Conduct. Behaviour, conduct or actions that breach the Code of Conduct (such as a conflict of interest which jeopardises the reputation of PHSO) are likely to be treated as serious misconduct under PHSO's Disciplinary policy;
PHSO's effectiveness depends on its reputation for being open, fair and impartial and it is essential that we are scrupulous in maintaining this reputation;
Responsibility for identifying and declaring an actual or potential conflict of interest rests with the employee;
PHSO will ensure an appropriate balance between transparency and privacy, and information declared for the requirements of this policy will be published as necessary to demonstrate probity and inspire confidence in the work of PHSO;
PHSO reserves the right to withdraw a job offer if a prospective employee has a conflict of interest for which no resolution is possible;
Information regarding the conflict of interest policy will form part of induction for all employees.

OUTCOMES

The outcomes of this policy are that:

PHSO employees have a clear understanding of what constitutes an actual or perceived conflict of interest;
conflicts of interest are identified and managed at the earliest opportunity;
declared conflicts of interests are managed effectively so as to protect the interests of both our customers and employees;
PHSO is able to comply with its obligations to disclose the financial and commercial interests of senior managers and other key decision makers in the Resource Accounts where required;
PHSO maintains its reputation for integrity, transparency and fairness.

MONITORING AND REVIEW

HR Operations will monitor the implementation of this policy to ensure that employees have the opportunity to update their personal record on conflicts of interest.

A regular formal review of this policy will take place and will be in accordance with relevant legislation.

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foiofficer, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

Dear Ms Wilkinson

We will respond to the other query in your email of 31 October 2013 as soon as possible.

Yours sincerely

Freedom of Information / Data Protection Team
Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman
W: www.ombudsman.org.uk

Please email the FOI/DP team at: [email address]

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[Name Removed] (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

interest that could arise between PHSO employees and its customers, suppliers and other stakeholders. I would be happy send you a copy of this policy if that would be helpful........

The PHSO now has 'customers'.....wouldn't you just know it!

foiofficer, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

Dear Ms Wilkinson

I write further to your email of 31 October 2013, in which you asked 'Is Dame Julie Mellor aware that her staff advise NHS trusts on how to handle complaints?'

As you may be aware, the Freedom of Information Act 2000 entitles a right to recorded information but not to opinions not already recorded. We do not hold any recorded information relating to your specific enquiry. However, you can read Dame Julie's views on the work of her office in published reports available on the PHSO website at:
www.ombudsman.org.uk/about-us/publicatio...
PHSO's strategic and corporate business plans are also available online at: www.ombudsman.org.uk/about-us/publicatio...

PHSO works in conjunction with other organisations in the field of complaints handling to improve the process and experience for complainants. Despite this ongoing work, any complaint brought to PHSO is looked at with complete impartiality. You can read more about the Ombudsman's values on our website at: www.ombudsman.org.uk/about-us/who-we-are...

If you have concerns about the way in which a complaint you have brought to the Ombudsman has been handled, please let us know so that we can have a chance to put things right for you. Details about how to go about this are available on our website at: www.ombudsman.org.uk/make-a-complaint/un...

Yours sincerely

Freedom of Information / Data Protection Team
Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman
W: www.ombudsman.org.uk

Please email the FOI/DP team at: [email address]

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CA Purkis left an annotation ()

I have evidence of a conflict of interest situation, but will be keeping that for the Committee.

Dear Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman's handling of my FOI request 'Conflict of interests?'.

WHY DID SHE NOT SAY “it is not the Ombudsman's role to provide advice to NHS organisations on specific complaints. If an NHS organisation rang the helpline and wanted to discuss an individual case, we would explain to them that we cannot provide specific advice in relation to individual cases” There can be no disputing that the FOI officer has wasted an enormous amount of time and therefore public money in avoiding giving me this information and attempting to give me the impression that PHSO does advise NHS trusts on ongoing complaints. Why is this?

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/c...

Yours faithfully,

Susan Wilkinson

foiofficer, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

Thank you for your e-mail to the Parliamentary and Health Service
Ombudsman. This return e-mail shows that we have received your
correspondence.

show quoted sections

All email communications with PHSO pass through the Government Secure
Intranet, and may be automatically logged, monitored and/or recorded for
legal purposes.
The MessageLabs Anti Virus Service is the first managed service to achieve
the CSIA Claims Tested Mark (CCTM Certificate Number 2006/04/0007), the UK
Government quality mark initiative for information security products and
services. For more information about this please visit www.cctmark.gov.uk

Brenda Prentice left an annotation ()

‘PHSO's effectiveness depends on its reputation for being open, fair and impartial and it is essential that we are scrupulous in maintaining this reputation;’

That would be why PHSO is not effective then. At least for customers.

Brenda Prentice left an annotation ()

And another laugh a minute from the reams that have been sent to plebs from PHSO via WDTK

3. Equality and diversity are embedded in PHSO’s core values:
• We respect others, regardless of personal differences
• We listen to people to understand their needs and tailor our service accordingly
• We promote equal access to our service for all members of the community.

8. 'Whilst we have a responsibility to consider making adjustments to our service, it is not our role to act as an advocate for the complainant. You can, if appropriate, refer a complainant to a third party advocacy service such as ICAS - the Independent Complaints Advocacy Service. ICAS provide impartial and independent advice for people who wish to make a complaint about the NHS. Alternatively, Citizens Advice provide advice on a wide range of matters'.

The problem with ICAS is, that they made such a pigs ear of my complaint that PHSO case worker took every opportunity to close the case ASAP.

After I made yet another complaint, this time to ICAS, they apologised for poor representation. Dept of Health saw nothing wrong with ICAS and the next time the contract came up for renewal, the same provider (SEAP) got the ICAS contract.

No wonder ICAS are recommended by PHSO for advocacy (not advice) work for the likes of us! We can do a better job for ourselves but what about those who have legitimate complaints but have lost capacity? They don’t stand a chance, well I guess we don’t either…..

Complaintsphso, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

3 Attachments

PROTECT

Dear Ms Wilkinson

 

We are sorry that you are dissatisfied with our handling of your
information request under reference: FDN-174835.

 

Under our internal complaints procedure, your complaint has been passed to
the Head of Risk, Assurance and Programme Management Office, Mr Steve
Brown. Mr Steve Brown will consider your concerns and will send you a full
reply once his review is complete. This review of your complaint is the
only review that we will undertake. 

 

We aim to reply to such complaints within 40 working days.

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

Ombudsman’s Review Team

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

T: 0300 061 4076

E: [1][email address]

W: [2]www.ombudsman.org.uk

 

Follow us on

[3]fb  [4]twitter  [5]linkedin

 

show quoted sections

All email communications with PHSO pass through the Government Secure
Intranet, and may be automatically logged, monitored and/or recorded for
legal purposes.
The MessageLabs Anti Virus Service is the first managed service to achieve
the CSIA Claims Tested Mark (CCTM Certificate Number 2006/04/0007), the UK
Government quality mark initiative for information security products and
services. For more information about this please visit www.cctmark.gov.uk

References

Visible links
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2. http://www.ombudsman.org.uk/
http://www.ombudsman.org.uk/
3. http://www.facebook.com/phsombudsman
4. http://www.twitter.com/PHSOmbudsman
5. http://www.linkedin.com/company/parliame...

[Name Removed] (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

That's very harsh Brenda.

You've forgotten about the 1.4percent of people whom they do serve - in part at least.

A record of which which any company or organisation would be proud... To bury.

.....Six feet under.

Brenda Prentice left an annotation ()

And I would put money on what Steve has to say!!!!!

CA Purkis left an annotation ()

the Head of Risk, Assurance and Programme Management Office?
It gets better and better

[Name Removed] (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

Oh dear..

It will be in Advanced Gobbledegook again.

Don't take it personally Susan.....you are not supposed to understand it.

Brown Steve, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

4 Attachments

 

 

Steve Brown

Head of Risk, Assurance and Programme Management Office

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

E: [1][email address]

W: [2]www.ombudsman.org.uk

 

Follow us on

[3]fb  [4]twitter  [5]linkedin

 

show quoted sections

All email communications with PHSO pass through the Government Secure
Intranet, and may be automatically logged, monitored and/or recorded for
legal purposes.
The MessageLabs Anti Virus Service is the first managed service to achieve
the CSIA Claims Tested Mark (CCTM Certificate Number 2006/04/0007), the UK
Government quality mark initiative for information security products and
services. For more information about this please visit www.cctmark.gov.uk

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[email address]
2. http://www.ombudsman.org.uk/
http://www.ombudsman.org.uk/
3. http://www.facebook.com/phsombudsman
4. http://www.twitter.com/PHSOmbudsman
5. http://www.linkedin.com/company/parliame...

Dear Brown Steve,

Could I just be quite clear on this, you are calling my requests for information "leading questions"?

Yours sincerely,

Susan Wilkinson

CA Purkis left an annotation ()

Steve Brown. Your officious answer only further serves to prove how removed the Ombudsman and her top heavy management are from the members of public who pay their mortgages and children's private school fees. Susan Wilkenson did not ask what measures were in place to ensure that you conduct your assessments and investigations fairly. It is now an accepted fact that your organisation is far from fair and impartial. She asked HOW your organisation considers it fair when you are colluding with the organisations we are complaining about? What chance do we have of your organisation assessing our complaints, if you don't understand our questions. Perhaps you can have your Director of Translations and Avoiding the Issues look into it for us.

[Name Removed] (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

.....Cosying up with the CQC over Morecambe Bay baby deaths for instance?

Carry on killing. Case closed.

Perhaps Susan should have asked how a ' conflict of interest' relates to that case?

The reason being that PHSO almost always automatically believes all government organisations ....while any desperate bereaved parent, or tenacious complainant - who asks too many questions - is deemed to be 'vexatious'.

That is, until the press finds out that the complainant is right.

The PHSO then suddenly jumps on to the 'Critical Bandwagon' - issuing stern-warning press releases to cover up the fact that it's modus operandi has been exposed.

Brown Steve, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

Dear Ms Wilkinson,

My reference to 'leading questions' is in respect of your information request FDN 174835 only. Your request was:

'When the PHSO begins an investigation and the NHS body involved has documented that it has received and acted upon advice on handling the case given by the PHSO advice line or corporate queries team, is there any special procedure to ensure the investigation is fair, since in these circumstances the PHSO would in fact be investigating a case in which it has played a part'

Ms Gasston, Freedom of Information/Data Protection Officer responded to your request by reminding you that she had already supplied you with PHSO's casework policy guidance and a customer service officer handbook in respect of a previous request. She also provided you with a link to the Ombudsman's principles which all PHSO staff are expected to follow, and offered to supply you with a copy of PHSO's conflict of interest policy. That so far as I am aware is all the information we have that is relevant to your request.

On 6 December you requested a review of Ms Gasston's handling of your information request:

'I am writing to request an internal review of Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman's handling of my FOI request 'Conflict of Interests?'
WHY DID SHE NOT SAY "it is not the Ombudsman's role to provide advice to NHS organisation's on specific complaints. If an NHS organisation rang the helpline and wanted to discuss an individual case, we would explain to them that we cannot provide specific advice in relation to individual cases" There can be no disputing that the FOI officer has wasted an enormous amount of time and therefore public money in avoiding giving me this information and attempting to give me the impression that PHSO does advise NHS trusts on ongoing complaints. Why is this?'

I consider those to be leading questions. In any case to meet your original request would require this office to create information beyond that we have already supplied to you something we are not obliged to do. s84 of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) 2000 defines a number of terms including 'information' which it explains as 'information recorded in any form'. You may find the ICO guidance on Freedom of Information useful: http://ico.org.uk/for_organisations/free... as it explains in several places that FOIA only entitles a right to recorded information.

Yours sincerely

Steve Brown
Head of Risk, Assurance and Programme Management Office
Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman
E: [email address]
W: www.ombudsman.org.uk

Follow us on

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Dear Brown Steve,

I'm sorry, I really am most confused by your response.

You now appear to be saying the leading questions were in my request for review, but whether they were or not is beside the point - this is not what I asked you to review. So, going back to the issue under review:

Could you please clarify: are you calling my original request a leading question?

Could you also please confirm that I have correctly understood your reson for dismissing my complaint as follows:

The FOI officer is not under any obligation to correct any misconceptions a requestor may have as to the function of PHSO and it is acceptable for her to respond to the request as if the misconception were true.

I would appreciate your confirmation since, although it seems plain that this is what you are saying, it does seem rather absurd.

Thank you

Yours sincerely,

Susan Wilkinson

CA Purkis left an annotation ()

I'm guessing Steve is not going to answer?

Susan Wilkinson

Dear Brown Steve,

I have not had a response to my communication of 4 February asking for your confirmation that I understood correctly:

The FOI officer is not under any obligation to correct any misconceptions a requestor may have as to the function of PHSO and it is acceptable for her to respond to the request as if the misconception were true.

I would appreciate your confirmation since, although it seems plain that this is what you are saying, it does seem rather absurd.

Further adding to my confusion is the fact that the DoH immediately responded to me correcting my misconception on this, whilst PHSO entered into a long series of responses supporting the misconception.

Could you please therefore just confirm that I have understood you correctly that you think this was perfectly acceptable and a good use of public funding?

Yours sincerely,

Susan Wilkinson

[Name Removed] (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

'Further adding to my confusion is the fact that the DoH immediately
responded to me correcting my misconception on this, whilst PHSO
entered into a long series of responses supporting the
misconception'.

........You now correctly understand the general modus operandi of a section of the PHSO's information team.