PHSO response to PASC report 'Investigating clinical incidents in the NHS'.

The request was refused by Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.

phsothefacts Pressure Group

Dear Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman,

In March 2015 PASC released a report entitled 'Investigating clinical incidents in the NHS' That report was critical of present complaint handling at PHSO and called on the Ombudsman to deliver an internal change programme.

75. Complainants deserve an Ombudsman they can have confidence in. There are
serious questions about the capacity and capability of the Ombudsman’s office, in
particular in relation to complaints involving clinical matters. We are aware of
considerable anguish and disquiet where Parliamentary and Health Service
Ombudsman investigations fail to uncover the truth, and of pain inflicted by the
Ombudsman’s defensiveness and reluctance to admit mistakes. This underlines the
need for improved competence and culture change throughout the system, including in
the PHSO. PHSO leadership is aware of the need for this change, but it is proving more
challenging than expected. We welcome the PHSO’s aim to improve the quality and
accessibility of its services. However, the Ombudsman’s office is under considerable
strain. Fundamental reform of the Ombudsman system is needed.

81. We recommend that the Ombudsman’s change programme be its main priority in the
immediate future. The Ombudsman should publish proposals on the progress of its
change programme, set out the form it will take from now on, what it is intended to
achieve, and by when. These proposals should be published in time for our successor
Committee to consider them.

1) PASC calls for the proposals to be published in time for the successor committee to consider them, so on that basis can PHSO now release into the public domain the proposal for its change programme?

2) PASC also called for the National Audit Office to assist with an inquiry on the value for money of PHSO. Can you give information on the progress of an NAO inquiry?

Yours faithfully,

Della Reynolds
phsothefacts Pressure Group

foiofficer@ombudsman.org.uk, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman


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foiofficer, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

Dear Ms Reynolds

 

Re: Your information request FDN-225461

 

Thank you for your email of 10 June 2015 in which you requested
information in the following terms:

 

In March 2015 PASC released a report entitled 'Investigating clinical
incidents in the NHS'  That report was critical of present complaint
handling at PHSO and called on the Ombudsman to deliver an internal change
programme.

75. Complainants deserve an Ombudsman they can have confidence in. There
are serious questions about the capacity and capability of the Ombudsman’s
office, in particular in relation to complaints involving clinical
matters. We are aware of considerable anguish and disquiet where
Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman investigations fail to uncover
the truth, and of pain inflicted by the Ombudsman’s defensiveness and
reluctance to admit mistakes. This underlines the need for improved
competence and culture change throughout the system, including in the
PHSO. PHSO leadership is aware of the need for this change, but it is
proving more challenging than expected. We welcome the PHSO’s aim to
improve the quality and accessibility of its services. However, the
Ombudsman’s office is under considerable strain. Fundamental reform of the
Ombudsman system is needed.

81. We recommend that the Ombudsman’s change programme be its main
priority in the immediate future. The Ombudsman should publish proposals
on the progress of its change programme, set out the form it will take
from now on, what it is intended to achieve, and by when. These proposals
should be published in time for our successor Committee to consider them.

1)  PASC calls for the proposals to be published in time for the successor
committee to consider them, so on that basis can PHSO now release into the
public domain the proposal for its change programme?
2) PASC also called for the National Audit Office to assist with an
inquiry on the value for money of PHSO.  Can you give information on the
progress of an NAO inquiry?

 

I can confirm firstly that the PHSO does not hold any information that
would directly respond to the terms of your request.  However in
attempting to aid and assist in accordance with section 16 of the Freedom
of Information Act 2000 (FOIA), I have considered your request more
broadly to include any documents that relate to a PHSO ‘change programme’
or ‘value for money’. 

 

By broadening the scope of your request to include anything related to
‘change programme’ or ‘value for money’, I have included several documents
held by the PHSO including a draft ‘change programme’ and draft ‘value for
money strategy’.  This extends to other documents including emails
reflecting the current work being undertaken by the PHSO in relation to
these recommendations. 

 

I note that the recommendations of PASC in March 2015 called for the
publication of this information prior to the first hearing of its
successor committee (PACAC).  The PHSO intends on publishing a response on
these matters prior to the first hearing with PACAC, allowing PACAC the
opportunity to consider and examine the PHSO on our progress.  As such,
any information that may later be included in those reports, such as the
current draft versions, is intended for future publication, and cannot be
disclosed in accordance with section 22 of the FOIA. 

 

Looking at your request from a broader perspective, because work in
relation to the ‘change programme’ and ‘value for money’ is in
development, I am of the view that the disclosure of any information at
this stage would also be prejudicial to the effective conduct of PHSOs
affairs.  I have made this decision after considering the opinion of Ms
Rebecca Marsh (Senior Information Risk Officer), a qualified person to
make a section 36 determination under section 36 (5) (o) (iii) of the
FOIA.  It is the opinion of Ms Marsh that the release of this information
would be likely to inhibit the free and frank provision of advice (section
36 (2) (b) (i)) and the free and frank exchange of views for the purpose
of deliberation (section 36 (2) (b) (ii)).  Further, it is the opinion of
Ms Marsh that the disclosure of this information would otherwise prejudice
the effective conduct of PHSOs affairs as it would not allow these matters
to be fully developed without external influence prior to the planned
response to PACAC.

 

I note also that the engagement of section 36 is conditional on the
non-disclosure of the information being in the public interest.  In making
my decision I have considered the following factors favouring disclosure:

 

1.      The public interest in the transparency and openness of public
authorities, particularly in relation to its decision making process and
the way it spends its money.  

2.      More specifically in this instance, the public interest in the way
a public body responds to one of its stakeholders, particularly where it
is directly accountable to that stakeholder.

3.      The PASC report and the recommendations made within are themselves
a matter of public interest.

 

I have also considered the following favours that do not favour
disclosure: 

 

1.      The public interest in protecting the safe space of
confidentiality for discussion of live and sensitive issues between staff
providing advice to senior staff as well as between senior staff
exchanging views in deliberative manner, allowing ideas to be fully
developed without fear or favour.

2.      The public interest in maintaining an environment of
confidentiality to encourage the free and frank provision of advice and
exchange of views for a deliberative purpose. 

3.      The public interest in reducing the possibility of a ‘chilling
effect’ that would dampen the quality of the decision- and policy-making
processes of public authorities.

4.      The public interest in allowing major projects to be developed and
implemented without undue influence, undue scrutiny or otherwise
disruptive activity.  

5.      The PHSO response to PASCs recommendations will be published in
due course following a full development process.  I recognise a public
interest in PACAC having the opportunity to consider these responses in
the first instance.

 

Overall, I do not believe that the factors favouring disclosure outweigh
the factors favouring maintaining the section 36 exemptions.  While I
recognise and appreciate the principle of open and transparent
administration, I also recognise the direct conflict this principle has
with the point on protecting the ‘safe space’ for ideas to be fully
developed.  In every consideration of the public interest test there will
be a tension between the two principles that must be balanced.  However in
this instance I do not believe there is any significant public interest
value attached to opening deliberations on these matters.

 

For these reasons the public interest factors favouring disclosure are not
sufficient to release these documents.

 

As I have previously noted, details of the PHSO response to the PASC
recommendations will be published in the future, and before the first
hearing of PACAC.  At this stage however, it is not possible for any
information relating to a ‘change programme’ or ‘value for money’ to be
disclosed to you. 

 

If you have any queries, or would like to ask for a review of my decision,
you can do so by writing to [1][email address].

 

Regards

 

David Thomas

FOI/Data Protection Officer

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

E: [2][email address]

W: [3]www.ombudsman.org.uk

 

 

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All email communications with PHSO pass through the Government Secure
Intranet, and may be automatically logged, monitored and/or recorded for
legal purposes.
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Government quality mark initiative for information security products and
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References

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Jt Oakley left an annotation ()

' I have made this decision after considering the opinion of Ms
Rebecca Marsh (Senior Information Risk Officer), a qualified person to
make a section 36 determination under section 36 (5) (o) (iii) of the....'

:::

I would check that this person is indeed a qualified person, an appointment which has to be verified by the Cabinet Office.

(ICO guidance says appointments must be made by a Minister responsible).

Unfortunately the Cabinet Office doesn't seem to be able to be able to produce any letters of appointment for qualified persons at the PHSO.

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

Since the request has been going since September ( the ICO have just stood back and watched), it seems to me that the responsible Minister has been rather irresponsible in filing his PHSO Qualified Person appointments and has lost them, as there simply can't be that many, so you may have to wait over nine months to get a response.

:::

It's possible that they may be in the same tranche of files that the Cabinet Office lost:

Either by an employee leaving them on a train:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7449255.stm

Or just 'withheld ' as the government paedophile list was:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-...

D. Speers left an annotation ()

Complainants deserve an Ombudsman they can have confidence in.
Bottom line! End of .....or whatever else is chosen!

D. Speers left an annotation ()

I totally agree with "Complainants deserve an Ombudsman they can have confidence in."
Currently we dont!!!

phsothefacts Pressure Group

Dear David Thomas,

what a lot of words to say so very little. At least we can be reassured that PHSO are not rushing into any hasty decisions of the back of such severe parliamentary criticism.

I look forward to the revealing of both the 'change program' and 'value for money' program in due course. December will be a very exciting month.

Yours sincerely,

Della Reynolds
phsothefacts Pressure Group

foiofficer@ombudsman.org.uk, 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

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