PHSO Learning Academy referred to in letter to William Wragg MP

The request was partially successful.

Dear Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman,

Ombudsman Rob Behrens sent a letter to William Wragg MP (PACAC) on 10 August 2020 in which he expressed his intention to seek funding for a 'learning academy' (page 4):

https://committees.parliament.uk/publica...

1. Please provide all information held related to your decision to establish the learning academy.

As things stand, the PHSO "cannot currently charge for any training services" provided. However, "[i]n the meantime, we will seek investment through the CSR to establish a new learning academy and professional qualifications for complaint handling at all levels".

2. How much investment are you seeking?

Presumably, you have you have undertaken analysis to establish the potential income you would receive from the training.

3. Please provide all information held relating to the project's value for money.

Yours faithfully,

J Roberts

InformationRights, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

Thank you for contacting the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman’s
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J Roberts left an annotation ()

I foresee a potential conflict of interest with this initiative: the PHSO relying on income from the organisations whose complaints it must investigate. On the other hand, given the tiny proportion of complaints currently upheld by the PHSO:

https://phsothetruestory.files.wordpress...

any conflict of interest is unlikely to make much difference to the overall figures.

But some complainants might be deterred from contacting the PHSO if, for example, the letter they receive from a hospital trust dismissing their complaint bears a symbol of PHSO accreditation. "What's the point?", they might think.

M Boyce left an annotation ()

A learning academy for professional qualifications for complaint handling? An honours degree in being biased and dismissing/ignoring the evidence?

The PHSO already employ professional lawyers and they are very well trained in dismissing/ignoring the evidence. They are much less well acquainted with public law however, since they openly and wrongly declare that 'it is not possible to use the FOIA to obtain a copy of legal advice obtained by the PHSO.' PHSO solicitors will be in the front row of the new learning academy.

J Roberts left an annotation ()

Given the tiny numbers of complaints 'upheld' and 'partly upheld' it's unlikely that a new training role would allay growing public concern with the organisation.

The number of complaints 'not ready for us or should not be taken forward' is striking:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/6...

Although this category may permit the ratio of 'upheld' and 'partly upheld' complaints to appear much higher (i.e. As a proportion of 30,895 – 25,659 and not of 30,895) it arguably presents a case for reducing PHSO funding rather than increasing it - over 80% of complaints (25,659) would seem not to involve much work at all.

I suspect an awful lot of the PHSO's work involves telling people that they have first to complete the complaints process of the organisation they are complaining against. The majority of these people will never be heard of again (which is not to say they get the outcome they were hoping for).

J Roberts left an annotation ()

MPs might also need to pass through the door of Rob's Academy.

In 2018/19 there were 2,428 MP referrals, but the number of parliamentary complaints assessed was 1,493:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/p... (see comment dated 5 March 2020)

Could MPs be referring complaints that have no chance of progressing? If so, why?

MP referrals for 2018/19:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/m...

J Roberts left an annotation ()

If permission is not fortcoming for the PHSO to charge for training, could it not have an 'independent' organisation like the Patients Association do the training? Such an arrangement could financially benefit both parties.

PHSO tweet dated 10 September 2020:

'Note that our webinar panel members will now be:

Helen Vernon - NHS Resolution
Ian Trenholm – Care Quality Commission
Lucy Watson – Patients Association
Ombudsman – Rob Behrens

Huge thanks to Lucy for stepping in to replace Sir Robert Francis at such short notice!

In a tweet dated 8 September 2020 Sir Robert Francis QC is identified as as representing Public Health England, however, he is also the President of the Patients Association:

https://www.patients-association.org.uk/...

In an edition of Ombudsman Radio he commended Rachael Power on her ability to deliver training:

https://www.ombudsman.org.uk/news-and-bl...

'Rachael Power: ...Also, the whole skill and competency… I know that you’ve been doing some work around competencies, which you mentioned earlier, around communication and listening. We often talk about them being soft skills. They are the most important skills that any case worker can bring to the job.

Rob Behrens:    Yes. We’ll have to get you to do a masterclass in Manchester, so you can develop these very important themes. For the moment, Rachel Power, it’s been a privilege and a pleasure. Thank you very much indeed.'

In another tweet dated 13 August 2020 Rob Behrens wrote:

'Excellent meeting with Patients Association today, exchanging ideas about Strategic Plans in development.'

https://twitter.com/RobBehrens1884/statu...

The changing role of the Patients Association as illustrated by this request to the CQC regarding referrals:

1. “Please provide the number of cases referred to you by the Patients Association in each of financial years 2016/17, 2017/18, 2018/19 and
2019/20.”

Response:

"The data listed below refer to the number of online feedback forms we have received for each of the years:

2016/17 – 947
2017/18 – 519
2018/19 – 371
2019/20 – 275"

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/s...

J Roberts left an annotation ()

A member of 'PHSOthefacts' has written a powerful letter to the Patients Association:

https://phsothetruestory.com/2020/06/19/...

The reply was rather short (also available via the above link).

Questions have also been raised about the Patient Association's links with Big Pharma:

It's annual accounts show that in 2018 its total income from donations was £208,301, of which £177,501 (85%) was 'Corporate donations /membership').*

It proclaims on its website, however, that "membership is free":

https://www.patients-association.org.uk/

It's 'supporters' include the Swiss based Novartis, the Swedish-linked Astra Zeneca, the US giant Bristol-Myers Squibb, the Danish multinational Novo Nordisk, the French headquartered Sanofi and the world-dominant Swiss-based Roche (one-third of its shares are owned by Novartis).

More of it supporters can be seen here:

https://www.patients-association.org.uk/...

* Page 24 of its TRUSTEES' REPORT AND FINANCIAL STATEMENTS FOR THE YEAR ENDED 31 DECEMBER 2018

https://register-of-charities.charitycom...

J Roberts left an annotation ()

'Response from the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman to the Patients Association’s consultation on their draft five-year strategy'

(10 September 2020)

https://www.ombudsman.org.uk/sites/defau...

"4. What help do you need to work in partnership with patients?

4.1 PHSO appreciates the support of the Patients Association in improving access to justice by helping to raise awareness of PHSO’s complaint handling service.

4.2 PHSO has also welcomed the involvement of advocacy groups including the Patients Association in the development of the draft NHS Complaints Standards Framework, which has ensured that the voice of patients is heard and represented in the Framework.

5. How do you think our strategic aims will affect the way that you work with the Patients Association in the future?

5.1 PHSO welcomes the opportunity to continue workingwith the Patients Association at both a strategic and working level to share learning and insight from PHSO’s casework and the Patients Association’s engagement with its members and other patients, families,and carers."

J Roberts left an annotation ()

Sir Robert Francis QC has expressed a view that the PHSO should become more involved with hospital trusts:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/i...

J Roberts left an annotation ()

PACAC - Second Special Report of Session 2019–21

[PACAC]

"6. The Committee would support an evidence-based bid for more funding if it could be demonstrated that this would improve service to complainants. The PHSO should prepare this evidence ahead of the now-postponed Spending Review and keep the Committee fully informed of its funding requirements and the implications of the eventual settlement. (Paragraph 43)"

[PHSO RESPONSE]

"We welcome the Committee’s support for increased funding for PHSO as part of an evidence-based bid through the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR). The Government has since launched the CSR and the deadline for submissions is 24 September.

We have written separately to the Committee as part of this process highlighting priorities for the bid and the Ombudsman has discussed the intended approach with the Chair of the Committee."

https://committees.parliament.uk/publica...

J Roberts left an annotation ()

"Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Scrutiny 2018–19: Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman’s response to the Committee’s Second report"

From page 1 (final paragraph):

"We agree with the Committee that there is a need to improve the way PHSO explains how it gathers and uses evidence and the decisions that are made. Steps are already being taken to improve on these two areas."

https://committees.parliament.uk/publica...

From PHSO board minutes 2014:

“Learning from complaints about us:

1.2 We believe that there needs to be a shift from defensive handling of complaints to one where organisations are seeking to extract feedback and insight from complaints to learn and improve on their services.”

(the document pages are not numbered sequentially, but according to the page number of my document reader it is page 75)

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/2...

It 2014 the PHSO knew exactly how other organisations could 'improve' on their services. We now hear that 'steps are already being taken' to improve on its own service. What exactly are they, I wonder.

Here is one step it took in 2013:

“8.3 PHSO has delivered significant reductions in the time it takes to undertake investigations (an average of 301 days in April 2013, 141 days in January 2014. However, duration remains beyond reasonable expectations.” (page 80 of the document reader)

How did it do it? An awesome reduction.

J Roberts left an annotation ()

In 2014 the then chief executive of the Patient's Association, Katerine Murphy, wrote:

"If the parliamentary and health service ombudsman (PHSO) was a school or a hospital, evidently failing so demonstrably, special measures would be introduced as a matter of urgency to stop the rot and prevent the situation from deteriorating further. Why is equivalent action not being taken in relation to the PHSO?"

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-30395267

M Boyce left an annotation ()

Why indeed? Could it have something to do with the fact that they (the establishment) are all in it together?

InformationRights, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

1 Attachment

Dear J Roberts

Our reference: FOI153
Your request for information

Thank you for your request of 3 September 2020 in which you requested
information from the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman via
whatdotheyknow.com. Your request has been handled in accordance with the
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) 2000.

 

We sincerely apologise for the delay in responding to your request and for
any inconvenience caused. We acknowledge it is outside the expected
timeframe for responding to an FOI request.

Your request:

“Ombudsman Rob Behrens sent a letter to William Wragg MP (PACAC) on 10
August 2020 in which he expressed his intention to seek funding for a
'learning academy' (page 4)…

 

1.  Please provide all information held related to your decision to
establish the learning academy. 

 

As things stand, the PHSO "cannot currently charge for any training
services" provided.  However, "[i]n the meantime, we will seek investment
through the CSR to establish a new learning academy and professional
qualifications for complaint handling at all levels".

2.  How much investment are you seeking? 

 

Presumably, you have you have undertaken analysis to establish the
potential income you would receive from the training.

 

3.  Please provide all information held relating to the project's value
for money.”

 

Our response:

We have both provided and withheld some of the information you requested.
We address each part of your request:

 

1.  Please provide all information held related to your decision to
establish the learning academy.

 

2.  How much investment are you seeking? 

 

We attach a copy of our draft strategy 2021-24 which contains reference to
the learning academy within the context of our 2021-24 objectives. This
provides insight into plans to potentially establish a learning academy.

 

Whilst we can confirm that we do hold other information within the scope
of the first two parts of your request, we consider that information to be
exempt from disclosure under Section 36(2)(c) of the FOIA:

 

36.—

(2) Information to which this section applies is exempt information if in
the reasonable opinion of a qualified person disclosure of the information
under this Act—

(c) would otherwise prejudice, or would be likely otherwise to prejudice,
the effective conduct of public affairs.

 

We are therefore withholding this information in line with the exemption
above. Section 36 is a qualified exemption and we have considered whether
the balance of public interest favours releasing this information.

 

Reasons to disclose:

As a publicly funded organisation we should be as transparent as possible
in terms of how we work and communicate with other organisations.

 

Reasons to withhold:

The information to be withheld is still in an early draft form; has not
received relevant signed-off; and is still within the process of
discussion and development. Some of the other information, obtained to aid
our planning process is still under consideration as to whether it will be
used in this project, if indeed at all.

 

The information here contains reference to matters that are still very
much under discussion, involving work at a very early stage in the
planning process. It is right that organisations are given the space to
develop their approach to projects and finalise the detail.

 

Information relating to how much investment we may seek in this matter
would form part of a Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) bid to be put to
HM Treasury (HMT) . The CSR bid is still a live process. CSRs are a
negotiation with HMT and it is important that public organisations have
the space to conduct these in confidence. Often material issues of detail
in one CSR bid process can roll into the next such process three years
later and as such it is important that public bodies have the space to
conduct negotiations in private across CSR periods.

 

Transparency is afforded by the detail published by HMT announcing the
outcome of the bid, as well as the related material we publish (i.e. our
strategy,  business plan and annual reports) that highlights what we have
spent and on what priorities.

 

We have also already been transparent through our release of our draft
strategy (as attached) which was previously available on our website and
subject to public consultation.

 

Taking into account all the circumstances of this case we consider that
the public interest favours maintaining the exemption and withholding the
requested information.

 

3.  Please provide all information held relating to the project's value
for money.

 

We confirm that we do not hold any information relating to this part of
your request.

 

We hope that this information is useful and sincerely apologise again for
the delay in responding to your request.

 

If you believe we have made an error in the way we have processed your
information request, it is open to you to request an internal review. You
can do this by writing to us by post or by email to
[1][PHSO request email]. You will need to specify what the
nature of the issue is and we can consider the matter further. Beyond
that, it is open to you to complain to the Information Commissioner’s
Office ([2]www.ico.org.uk).

 

Yours sincerely

 

Freedom of Information/Data Protection Team

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

E: [3][PHSO request email]

W: [4]www.ombudsman.org.uk

 

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[PHSO request email]
2. http://www.ico.org.uk/
3. mailto:[PHSO request email]
4. http://www.ombudsman.org.uk/
http://www.ombudsman.org.uk/

J Roberts left an annotation ()

'Our vision is to be an internationally respected public services ombudsman by providing an independent, impartial and fair complaints resolution service, while using casework to help raise standards and improve public services.'

So far, much that has been achieved by the PHSO would suggest that the vision is very unlikely ever to be realised. 'Vision' is a vague term, but a graph can convey 1,000 truthful words:

https://twitter.com/phsothefacts/status/...

Trustpilot reviews are useful too:

https://www.trustpilot.com/review/www.om...

C Rock left an annotation ()

I'm sorry but this :

"...vision... to be an internationally respected public services ombudsman by providing an independent, impartial and fair complaints resolution service... ".. beggars belief when there is so much evidence is out there to contest this ever being possible.

PHSO problems (or at least some of them) are:

Does not listen to its complainants agonising and heartfelt expereinces;
Does not research defendant evidence against written requirements or previous statements;
Continues to harm and gaslight anyone with a good case of injustice;
Has not a clue about Law or the application of NHS procedures;
Does not respond to service complaints about staff and ill-written responses likely to incite;
The effect of PHSO' staff dangerous and unnecessary use of mental pressure on complainants;
and the latter might include various mocking and denigration tactics to diminish and evidence so it can be brushed aside as unimportant.......... I could go on.

Not this time however. Any "review" as re-defined by PHSO, will just state "I'm not happy". Who would be after PHSO treatment such as the above?

Independent, impartial and fair does not describe PHSO no matter how many times the mantra is parroted.

" PHSO's platform is bigger than your platform ... so there"

PHSO's PR is their amateur and childish attempt to brainwash would-be complainants to the level of it's own staff. IMHO.

I'm sorry but this is how it was for me.. and I had 10 years of it without let-up.