Time taken to investigate cases

M Boyce 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.

The request was successful.

Dear Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman,

The PHSO states it aims to complete 98% of all cases/investigations within a year.

(1) What was the longest time it took the PHSO to complete a case/investigation from the date the PHSO received the complaint to the date it sent the complainant its decision?

If this request exceeds the cost limit, then please supply data for the last 2 years.

Yours faithfully,

M Boyce

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


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InformationRights, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

Dear M Boyce,

 

Thank you for your email of 30 July 2017 to the Parliamentary and Health
Service Ombudsman (PHSO) requesting information under the Freedom of
Information Act 2000 (FOIA). Your exact request was:

 

“(1) What was the longest time it took the PHSO to complete a
case/investigation from the date the PHSO received the complaint to the
date it sent the complainant its decision?

 

If this request exceeds the cost limit, then please supply data for the
last 2 years.”

 

The PHSO holds information relating to your request.  I can confirm from
records currently held, that the longest time PHSO took to complete an
investigation was 2831 days. 

 

I hope my email is helpful.  If you believe I have made an error in the
way I 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][Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman 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,

 

 

Sarah Otto

Freedom of Information / Data Protection Team

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

E: [Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman request email]

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

 

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J Roberts left an annotation ()

"The PHSO holds information relating to your request. I can confirm from records currently held, that the longest time PHSO took to complete an investigation was 2831 days. "

That's about 7 years and 39 weeks. If working days are being referred to then it would be closer to 12 years!

M Boyce left an annotation ()

J Roberts, you make an interesting point about whether the information refers to working days.
I've got a case with the PHSO which they first received in December of last year. They keep changing case handlers and so every new case handler has to start the investigation from the beginning.
I should expect my case to be resolved by 2030?
I think I need to enquire further about the scale of this unacceptable problem.

phsothefacts Pressure Group left an annotation ()

There is now a law which requires PHSO to inform the complainant and Parliament of any reason why an investigation extends beyond 12 months. To get round this they change the case numbers so watch out for that. Don't accept a new case number along with a new case handler.

J Roberts left an annotation ()

Mr Boyce, now that the staff turnover has shot up to 31 per cent it is likely that there will be a lot more complainants in your position. I say "likely" because in such dire circumstances there is a risk that the thoroughness of investigations could be sacrificed to meet target times.

Staff turnover evidence can be viewed here:

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

I am not suggesting that tha lack of thoroughness would stem from an intention on the part of PHSO personnel, simply accidental error. For example, if you look at this table:

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

you can see the outcomes of cases handled by some staff during 2014/15. Number 11 concluded 33 cases, none of which was upheld.

I have no evidence to suggest that number 11 did anything other excellent work. But imagine a situation involving a temporary caseworker eager to clear his desk and a manager keen to hit targets. The manager might he inclined to pass a case to one caseworker rather than another.

M Boyce left an annotation ()

Austerity has been a godsend for the Conservative Government as it has severely restricted receiving justice to those who are rich. People who have to use ombudsmen like the PHSO are usually fairly poor. The Tories don't like the poor to challenge the establishment. In time the poor will simply stop complaining to organisations like the PHSO because they will just get ignored for years on end and then get no justice at the end of it. And that is dangerous for democracy. Austerity is not just about wealth inequality, it's is also about justice inequality.

J Roberts left an annotation ()

I take your point about justice inequality. That an aggrieved PHSO complainant can ultimately seek judicial review is apparently some guarantee of justice equality, but check out http://phsothefacts.com/judicial-review/ to see what little judicial review actually means. In a recent case concerning the cost of employment tribunals our esteemed Supreme Court judges noted:

"Courts exist in order to ensure that the laws made by Parliament, and the common law created by the courts themselves, are applied and enforced. That role includes ensuring that the executive branch of government carries out its functions in accordance with the law. In order for the courts to perform that role, people must in principle have unimpeded access to them. Without such access, laws are liable to become a dead letter, the work done by Parliament may be rendered nugatory, and the democratic election of Members of Parliament may become a meaningless charade. That is why the courts do not merely provide a public service like any other."

http://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKSC/2017...

Fine words!

M Boyce left an annotation ()

J Roberts, your info on judicial review reinforces my comments on justice inequality: judicial review is not a realistic option for anyone who doesn't have very, very deep pockets. The Grayling Condemn Government changes to access judicial review was a form of judicial cleansing.

phsothefacts Pressure Group left an annotation ()

The argument has been that reducing legal aid and access to tribunal through fees is to reduce 'nuisance' claims which have no merit and save court time. But for most people court action is the last resort - no one of choice and legal representation requires that cases with no merit are eliminated well before any court action. This government are closing down routes to justice at an alarming rate but unfortunately, most do not realise this until they come to use the system themselves.
The intention was clear in the closure of the AJTC in 2011/12 - this consultation document is the writing on the wall. https://www.parliament.uk/documents/comm...

M Boyce left an annotation ()

Yes PHSOthefacts I completely agree with you. I also seem to recall that the Condemn Government also wanted to abolish trial by jury to further save money. The Conservative Government would almost certainly abolish trial by jury if Saint Theresa had got her wished for large majority. Now she can go hang instead of hanging the innocent without a proper trial.

phsothefacts Pressure Group left an annotation ()

The idea is to make government and public bodies totally unaccountable. There is precious little accountability now and it takes determination and years of pressure to get anywhere. If only more people were aware.

J Roberts left an annotation ()

Things still not looking good, according to PACAC:

'13. The PHSO’s written evidence further contends that it is “closing enquiries and complaints more quickly. In 2018–19 it took us an average of 158 days to close a case. From April to December 2019–20, we closed cases in an average of 140.8 days.” However, this performance nonetheless represents an increase in the average time to close cases, as it took 135 days in 2016–17 and 132 days in 2017–18'

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

And there is this extract from a hospital report:

"NOTE: The PHSO have changed how they investigate complaints and when investigations start; therefore previous graphical data may have changed in this report”.

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

By changing when an investigation starts would seem to have the potential to change how long an investigation lasts.

J Roberts left an annotation ()

Look at what the PHSO achieved 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.”

(the document pages are not numbered sequentially, but according to the page number of my document reader it is page 80)

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

Seems impressive.

J Roberts left an annotation ()

Extract from an email sent by Ombudsman Rob Behrens to William Wragg MP (PACAC) on 20 July 2020:

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

'Raising standards

We have continued to develop the skills and professionalism of staff through offering training and development opportunities to meet new quality standards for casework.

We are making increasing numbers of decisions without the need for a detailed investigation. We have developed our capacity for mediation, enablingus to facilitate conversations between complainants and bodies in jurisdiction.'

It would be interesting to know what complainants make of being denied a 'detailed investigation'. Presumably that's what they wanted when they contacted the PHSO? It's bound to reduce the time taken to investigate cases.

J Roberts left an annotation ()

'Phso the Facts' have produced a graph which vidly illustrates how the number of investigations carried out by the PHSO has fallen by more than two-thirds between 2016/17 and 2019/20 - from 3,715 to 1,122:

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

J Roberts left an annotation ()

Link broken in comment dated 17 August 2017. Try this:

https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-c...

"The Government considers that the AJTC’s oversight function duplicates activity that can take place elsewhere and that its retention can no longer be justified against a background of severe financial constraints."

Something else:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk...

"We welcomed the Committee’s final report, published on 8 March 2012, which highlighted the fundamental difference of view between the Government and others over whether there is a continuing need for the functions that the AJTC performs. The report also raised doubts about the level of cost savings that the Government estimated could be secured by our abolition."

Wiki:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Administra...