Statutory rights: are they the same whether a case is classified as an "investigation" or an "intervention"?
Dear Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman,
On 5 November 2009, giving evidence to PASC, Ann Abraham Ombudsman asserted:
" …we do look at and assess thousands of cases. It is only a few hundred that go through for full investigation…We intervene short of an investigation in quite a large number where we get some kind of positive resolution. So a lot is going on at the front end in our customer services and assessment process, and then our investigation directorates are taking for a full investigation a relatively small proportion of those.
(Chairman) …in 2006/07 you were taking 1,682 complaints for investigation,…and in 2008/09 that was down to 401. That is a huge change in the number of case taken on for investigation is it not?
(Ann Abraham) Of course…we subsequently wrote to you about the way our methodologies and terminology had changed over the years. I think it is only in the last two or three years, really, that there is a consistency of terminology which enable you to say actually those figures are comparable. I think that historically a lot of the thousand or more cases that you quote would have been called an investigation when, in fact, they were much nearer what we would now call an intervention. So I do not think it is very easy to track it,…we have tried to say a great deal more in the Annual Report about the sort of intervention work we are doing,….."
Reference the Ombudsman's statement that " historically a lot of the thousand or more cases that you quote would have been called an investigation when, in fact, they were much nearer what we would now call an intervention", please provide recorded information, including any impact assessments showing how PHSO has dealt with complainants' rights under "statutory investigations" as distinct from "interventions" to receive and comment on draft reports and to see and question the evidence on which the Ombudsman's conclusions in draft and final reports are based. That is to say, has it been PHSO policy to treat "interventions" equally in terms of the procedural rights guaranteed by a statutory investigation? If not please explain in detail what is the differential treatment.
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Dear Ms Colville
Your information request (FDN-244153)
I am writing further to your request of 30 December 2015, in which you
asked for information about “interventions”. This was in relation to the
comments made by the Ombudsman in giving evidence to PASC in 2009. In
particular you have asked for:
… recorded information, including any impact assessments showing
how PHSO has dealt with complainants' rights under "statutory
investigations" as distinct from "interventions" to receive and comment on
draft reports and to see and question the evidence on which the
Ombudsman's conclusions in draft and final reports are based. That is to
say, has it been PHSO policy to treat "interventions" equally in terms of
the procedural rights guaranteed by a statutory investigation? If not
please explain in detail what is the differential treatment.
I have considered your request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000
and can confirm that we hold the information you have asked for. Please
see below for the information I am able to disclose to you.
Firstly the relevant annual report to which the Ombudsman referred in
giving her evidence to PASC is the PHSO 2008-2009 Annual Report. I have
attached the report to this response.
1. Recorded information on interventions
For many years PHSO has closed cases at the pre-investigation stage on the
basis that we consider that the action taken (or agreed) has appropriately
resolved the complaint or the immediate issue before us. If we are able to
intervene early to resolve a case it means that we do not need to conduct
an investigation at that point.
These types of case have had a number of different titles and one of these
is “interventions”. This was originally an abridging of the enquiry action
code ‘intervention short of an investigation’. These have also been
described as ‘resolutions through intervention’ and most recently as
Please see below for the attached information relating to interventions.
As you will see, the level of detail in our guidance has varied over the
years. The definition and process has also changed.
o Casework Policy and Guidance – Resolution through intervention
(applied until March 2013)
o Interim Casework Policy and Guidance – Customer Services (see
o Interim Casework Policy and Guidance – Case Assessment (see paragraphs
o Enquiry and Assessment Manual (see paragraphs 73-78)
2. Procedural rights
Under our legislation we are only required to either investigate or send a
statement of reasons as to why we are not investigating. Legally, an
intervention is a decision to decline a complaint for investigation.
Therefore, it does not therefore trigger the legislative requirements for
investigations, such as the proposal to investigate and issuing a report.
Further explanation of the procedure of an intervention can be found in
the attached documents (see above).
I hope the information I have provided is helpful. If you have any further
queries, or would like to ask for a review of my decision, you can do so
by writing to [email address].
If you still have concerns after that, you can ask the Information
Commissioner’s Office to look into your case. Their contact details are
available on their website at: www.ico.org.uk.
Freedom of Information/Data Protection Officer
Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman
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