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Mythbusters

Meet the mythbusters

Here are a few common beliefs about our service that aren't quite right. We've pulled together a collection of some of them, along with a response which we hope will make it clearer what service we can offer and our role in the complaints system.

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Here at the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, we have been listening to what the public, people who use our service and our stakeholders say about what we can or can't do as well as what our role is.

We found that there were some common beliefs which weren't quite right so we decided to put together a collection of some of them, along with a response which we hope will make it clearer what service we can offer and our role in the complaints system.

We investigate complaints without taking sides and look at evidence from both the complainant and the organisation being investigated.  We compare what happened with what should have happened and consider the evidence impartially before making a final decision.  When needed, our investigators seek expert advice from a wide range of sources including clinicians.

If we decide there were no failings and an organisation has done the right thing to resolve the individual's complaint, we explain why. If we decide there has been an injustice because an organisation has got it wrong, we say so. We may make recommendations for it to put things right and to prevent it from happening again.

In 2014-15 we completed 4,159 investigations, compared to 2,199 in 2013-14 and 384 in 2013-14.

In 2013-14, we changed the way we look at complaints. Before, we only investigated if the evidence showed we were likely to uphold the complaint, whereas now we investigate if we think something has gone wrong that hasn't been put right.

Sometimes we can resolve a complaint without needing to carry out a full investigation. For example, we can contact the organisation that an individual is unhappy with and ask them to resolve their complaint. In 2014-15 we made 562 recommendations, such as financial compensation or an apology, without carrying out a full investigation.

Our service is open to everyone. When you contact us we will listen carefully to your complaint and see where we can help. We will investigate your complaint if we think an organisation has done something wrong and has not done enough to resolve the problem. Our online complaint form tells you what information we need from you to start looking into your complaint. If you have any questions about filling it out, you can contact our enquiry line on 0345 015 4033.

We're accountable to Parliament and our work is scrutinised  by the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC), which is made up of MPs.

We were set up by Parliament to provide an independent complaint handling service. We share findings from our casework with Parliament to help them scrutinise the organisations we investigate and share these findings more widely with others to help drive improvements in public services.

A complaint can highlight where an organisation needs to make improvements, so if we find there has been an injustice due to a fault or service failure, we can make recommendations on how they can put things right for the individual and stop the same mistakes from happening again. In 2014-15, we investigated 4,159 complaints which led to the following remedies:

  • 1,255 apologies
  • 848 compensation payments (£949,596 health and £401,397 government departments)
  • 1,060 recommendations for management action and
  • 782 other actions to put things right.

Read our case summaries to find out how we've helped people who have complained to us.

We offer a variety of ways for people to get in contact with us. This includes Minicom and British Sign Language (BSL). We produce information in different formats. This includes videos in BSL, forms, leaflets and letters in large print, Braille, Easy Read and many different languages. We also accept complaints from advocates or advocacy organisations.

Find out more about the different ways to contact us.

We also accept complaints from advocates or advocacy organisations. If you need support with complaining, please ring us and we will try to help.

We investigate complaints in private due to the sensitive nature of the issues we look at and because the legislation governing us requires this. However, we are open about what happens at each stage of our investigation process. We cannot comment on individual cases until an investigation has been concluded and the report or case summary has been published; this is to protect the complainant's personal details. Once the complainant and the organisation involved have received the final report, it is up to them how they use it.

We also publish our performance data on a monthly basis which gives figures on how many enquiries we've received, how many ongoing investigations we have and how many investigations we have completed. We regularly publish summaries of complaints we've investigated, which provide an overview of the issue, what we found through our investigation and how it was resolved.

We publish a wide range of information about our work and on the subjects that we know are of interest to the public

It is not our responsibility to deliver changes and improvements in public services; our role is to make final decisions on complaints that have not been resolved by the NHS in England, UK government departments and some UK public organisations.

We share findings from our casework with Parliament to help them scrutinise the organisations we investigate and share these findings more widely with others to help bring about improvements in public services. The insight from our casework is shared with the organisations we investigate, as well as regulators to help improve complaint handling and public services for everyone.

We are not an advocate or consumer champion. We are an independent organisation set up by Parliament. We make final decisions on complaints that have not been resolved by the NHS in England, UK government departments and other UK public organisations

We do this fairly without taking sides.

We can signpost people to advocacy organisations like Healthwatch or Citizens Advice, which can help people make a complaint to us.

We are not a regulator or part of the NHS. We are an independent organisation and we make final decisions on complaints about the NHS in England, UK government departments and some UK public organisations. We do not regulate, inspect or monitor them.

We share findings from our casework with Parliament to help them scrutinise public service providers and share these findings more widely to help others drive improvements in public services.