Your complaint to Conservative Home about article by Bruce Newsome

D. Moore made this Freedom of Information request to Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

This request has been closed to new correspondence. Contact us if you think it should be reopened.

The request was successful.

Dear Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman,

The phsothetruestory website is reporting that you complained about a hard-hitting article written by academic Bruce Newsome of the University of California, Berkely:

The article was entitled : "The key problem with the NHS. Not resources, not culture – but a lack of accountability" and appeared on Conservative Home:

1. Please provide copies of all correspondence you sent to Conservative Home in respect of Bruce Newsome's article.

2. Please also search the PHSO email account of the individual or individuals who contacted Conservative Home in respect of Bruce Newsome's article for all emails sent (to anyone) or received (from other PHSO email addresses) that contain either of the names "Bruce Newsome" or "Conservative Home". Please provide me with copies of these emails.

Yours faithfully,

D Moore, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

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InformationRights, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

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Dear D Moore,


RE: Your information request response FDN-274848


Thank you for your email to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman
(PHSO) on the 14 October 2017, requesting for the following information:


1.  Please provide copies of all correspondence you sent to Conservative
Home in respect of Bruce Newsome's article.


2.  Please also search the PHSO email account of the individual or
individuals who contacted Conservative Home in respect of Bruce Newsome's
article for all emails sent (to anyone) or received (from other PHSO email
addresses) that contain either of the names ""Bruce Newsome"" or
""Conservative Home"".    Please provide me with copies of these emails.”




We have considered your request under the terms of the Freedom of
Information Act 2000 (FOIA).


Please accept our apologies in the delay in responding to you.  Please
find attached information I am able to release to you.  I have split these
into two parts relating to both questions asked.  I have also removed any
duplicate information, in the correspondence provided.


Some redactions have been made in accordance with section 40(2) of the
FOIA. This is an exemption which provides for the protection of third
party personal data.


Section 40(2) exempts personal information from disclosure if that
information relates to someone other than the applicant, and if disclosure
of the information would, among other things, contravene one of the data
protection principles in schedule 1 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA).
Disclosure of the requested information will contravene the first data
protection principle which requires that personal data is processed fairly
and lawfully, in particular the requirement of fairness. 


Our staff have a reasonable expectation of privacy and would not expect
that this kind of information to be disclosed in response to a freedom of
information request.  Disclosure under FOI is disclosure to the world at
large. In this instance section 40(2) has been applied to some staff names
due to their position within the organisation, consequently we have only
disclosed names of those at a senior level i.e. Heads of Service and


I hope my email is useful. 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 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]


Yours sincerely,



Freedom of Information/Data Protection Team

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

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D. Moore left an annotation ()

The information released reveals further strong criticism of the PHSO and provides valuable insight into how it defends its reputation. One contributor suggests that it might be best not to bother responding to the article as its impact will be limited. Bruce Newsome is characterised as:

"a fairly random columnist as opposed to one of their heavier hitters".

In a message sent from her iphone on 15 august 2017, Shareena Merzi stresses the importance of presenting the 'most impressive figures" when corresponding with Conservative Home:

"My only feedback is on the numbers. It's not that impressive quoting we investigate 4,000 of 100,000 enquiries (which is a bit of a misleading figure anyway). Could we say of the xx complaints we take a closer look at (assessment) we investigate xx or should we say something about increasing no of investigations we do ."

phsothefacts Pressure Group left an annotation ()

Interesting to see the wheels turning inside PHSO at the 'shock' of public criticism. Shame they don't act so quickly to resolve public complaints. The spinning of the figures is typical behaviour. I think we should all share widely the article from Mr Newsome to make sure that it has as much 'impact' as possible. On the key issue he was spot on, this body is unaccountable and consequently acts with impunity.

A.E. left an annotation ()

PHSO are so protective of it's staff. at every opportunity citing exclusions as to why they shouldn't identify people. It would be interesting to see if uon closer inspection, they are misusing such exclusions or not.

Even with the information provided, you can see that Mr Newsome has touched a nerve. The public are not stupid and the obfuscations of PHSO do not hide the truth of their sham statistics.

Bruce Oliver Newsome left an annotation ()

I am the author of the article that the PHSO tried to silence. I am grateful to D. Moore (whom I don't know) for using the FOI request to expose the PHSO's dirty tricks. At the time, I had asked the PHSO for permission to publish its correspondence with me about my article, or to commit to a public debate, which the PHSO refused. My story of my experience with the PHSO's response to my article is posted here:

The PHSO seems more focused on protecting its reputational risks than protecting the health risks of Britons - the PHSO's distortion of priorities helps to explain why the PHSO costs British taxpayers more than 37 million quid per year without fulfilling its statutory duties.

J Roberts left an annotation ()

Dr Newsome presents strong counter-rebuttals to the attempted rebuttals offered by the PHSO (and an awful lot of senior PHSO staff were involved in challenging his article!).

PHSO performance statistics tend to be misleading. Certainly, the proportion of all complaints investigated is tiny:

“If we can deal with your complaint, we'll let you know and refer it on to step two. We receive over 29,000 complaints a year and just over 25% are taken forward to this step.

If we can't take your complaint forward, we'll give you information about what you can do next. This is how we help almost 75% of the people who contact us, and includes giving advice about how to complain to the organisation you're unhappy with, if you haven't done this already."

This could amount to: "We can't help, phone us back when you have finished your appeals process."

The figure of 120,000 (is it contacts or enquiries?) is bonkers. It makes the PHSO seem very busy. Does their telephone system not automatically captures some of this figure each time someone phones the helpline? A person who phoned the wrong number could be included in the figure, or someone who phoned up for the 10th time to enquire why he had received no response to his complaint - he could be included ten times. If it is not automatic, then the call handlers involved in each of his 10 calls would record them.

In 2013/14 and 2014/15 the "total individuals who complained to PHSO" was 25,227 and 24,452 respectively:

The significant difference in the number of complainants having multiple complaints in 2014/15 can be seen here:

Note the use of the term "enquiries received" (is this not complaints?). In 2013/14 there were 27,566 and in 2014/15 the figure increased to 28,189. More 'enquiries received' from fewer individuals.

D. Moore left an annotation ()

Dr Newsome has written another powerful piece entitled "Hospitals need to be accountable to someone other than themselves: here’s why":

He hits the nail on the head with:

'What everybody involved agrees to avoid is structural accountability for malpractice.'

I occasionally hear on the radio someone from the PHSO talking about a recently published report - 'things are bad, we have intervened and things will improve' sort of thing. But never is the impact of the PHSO on thousands of complainants scrutinized by media outlets. It really is no knight in shining armour.

He puts things in context with:

'NHS England alone received 175,000 [written] complaints [in one year].'

Yet the PHSO in 2016/17 investigated only 4,000 of the 29,000 complaints it received. I find it hard to believe that so many of the 175,000 complainants to NHS England found satisfaction with the responses from the 'more than 70 nominally “independent” investigative organizations (by Parliament’s own count)' they dealt with.

J Roberts left an annotation ()

Two recent devastating critiques of the Ombudsman by Dr Newsome:

'According to heart-breaking testimonials, most complainants are treated by PHSO staff as time-wasters, liars, idiots, fantasists, egotists, and objects of ridicule. The victims have nowhere else to go. Parliament’s Select Committee on Public Administration has complained since 2015 that the PHSO is unaccountable to Parliament except through annual reports. The PHSO’s only practical accountability is to the executive, which controls its funding and appoints its person, but every executive has said that the PHSO is “independent.” Its own solution to criticism is to demand more powers.'

'Your final champion is supposed to be the Parliamentary & Health Services Ombudsman (PHSO), but this is mistermed in so many ways. It is unaccountable to Parliament, except to submit annual reports. It is unaccountable to the Prime Minister’s Office, except through long-term funding cycles and appointments. It can choose for itself which complaints to investigate or reject. No parliamentary committee or politician can overrule it.'

'Since its employees are not civil servants, we have no idea how they are qualified. They often turnover quicker than the cases they’re handling. One complainant told me that a PHSO report on his complaint “seemed to have been written by a 12 year old.”'

Some interested in the work of the Ombudsman might also wish to read the following:

'Mr Behren's apology re report on Averil Hart's death'

PHSO's Trustpilot account:

Evidence supporting the remark made by Dr Newsome on the PHSO's staff turnover:

PHSO response concerning complaints about government departments:

'1. There were 5,744 Parliamentary complaints received in 2018/19

2. There were 38 Parliamentary cases upheld or partly upheld at investigation in 2018/19 (3 upheld, 35 partly upheld)'

(approximately 1 in 2,000 parliamentary complaints 'upheld')

J Roberts left an annotation ()

I forgot to add that the book published by 'PHSO the facts' referred to by Dr Newsome contains nothing but 5 star reviews on Amazon, in start contrast to the PHSO on Trustpilot. Read the reviews here:

Phso the facts:

A.E. left an annotation ()

Bruce, your link doesn't work unfortunately. I would be very interested to read the article.

PHSO is a perjurious and dishonest organisation that even the police won't take action over, even when there is no bar to them doing so.

J Roberts left an annotation ()

Dr Bruce Newsome shoots to bits PHSO figures in his latest hard-hitting article entitled: 'letting another quango mislead parliament?'

'The PHSO investigated 30.6 percent fewer cases in 2019-2020 compared to the preceding year, even though enquiries fell by 7.4 percent. Yet, the PHSO misreported 13 percent more enquiries, as recently as August this year.'

'The PHSO refused to quantify the reduction of demand in the final six months. The PHSO’s communications with me on these issues were confusing. Its first excuse was that the person responsible for that part of the report separated from the PHSO. Another excuse was that the National Audit Office hadn’t asked for clarification or correction of that part of the report. In the end, it went back to its claim that because its metrics changed in November 2019 it could not be expected to quantify the subsequent fall in demand .'

J Roberts left an annotation ()

PHSOtheFACTS crunch the numbers in PHSO data tables:

'The number of upheld complaints falls from 3.1% to 2.1% in the red figures, which are a percentage of total complaints made. The number of investigations reported on falls from 8.2% of all complaints to just 3.6%. Because fewer investigations were carried out (2,676 down to 1,122) the percentage of upheld investigations rises from 37.5% to 58%. (green figures). If you get past the 7-day purge and receive an assessment of your complaint, you have approximately 20% chance of some form of positive outcome.'

J Roberts left an annotation ()

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Scrutiny 2019–20

HC 843 Published on 25 January 2021

'13. ... Dr Bruce Newsome criticised the PHSO’s use of this statistic, asserting it misled Parliament...

14. In May 2020, the PHSO reported to the Committee that it had experienced an increase of 13 per cent in demand compared to the previous financial year. Due to the introduction of a new digital casework management system, comparisons between years were not possible. This means that the 13 per cent figure cannot be evidenced. The PHSO made no effort to proactively correct the record. If witnesses provide evidence to select committees which is later demonstrated not to be evidence, those witnesses should correct the record. This responsibility is especially applicable for bodies that are scrutinised by those select committees.'

liz perloff left an annotation ()

the Ombuds and CEO of Parliamentary and Health Service Ombuds have mislead Parliament. Let me repeat that, the organisation that holds Parliament to account, has been acted in an unaccountable and unethical manner.

How can the public have confidence in PHSO’s integrity or it’s ability to hold Parliament to account?

To restore the public confidence in the office of the Ombuds, the CEO and Ombuds of PHSO should be forced to resign with immediate effect.

D. Moore left an annotation ()

I've made a request related to the PACAC report:

The public interest in having accurate and meaningful statistics is overwhelming.