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Bringing people together at our third annual Open Meeting

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Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

On 2 October 2019, we held our third annual Open Meeting at the Pendulum Hotel in Manchester. The event is a further illustration of PHSO’s transition into a more outward-facing, accessible, and transparent ombudsman service. 

The purpose of the meeting is to explain in public what we do, listen to our service users, and learn from those engaged in front-line complaints resolution. Out of this we aim to build trust in PHSO as well as the organisations that we investigate.

Once again, the Open Meeting was constructive and engaging. It allowed around 100 attendees, and many more who joined via live-stream, the opportunity to ask questions about our service. The meeting was attended by a diverse mix of delegates, including complainants, complaint handlers and representatives of national bodies.

Guest speakers

We were joined by three excellent guest speakers: Rosemary Agnew, Peter Tyndall and Jonathan Slater.

Rosemary Agnew is Scottish Public Services Ombudsman. During her interview with Amanda Campbell, our CEO, she spoke about the value of having a complaints standards framework to ensure a consistent level of service across organisations. This is something PHSO will deliver for NHS complaints partners in the coming year.

It was excellent to have Rosemary’s insight into how this can be achieved. Rosemary is also a guest on our next episode of Radio Ombudsman, out in November. Subscribe to Radio Ombudsman on Soundcloud or iTunes to hear more from Rosemary soon, and listen to other recent guests. 

Peter Tyndall is President of the International Ombudsman Institute. He was appointed Ombudsman and Information Commissioner for Ireland in December 2013 and is responsible for providing redress for almost all public services provided by or on behalf of the state and local government.

Using a number of case studies, his presentation highlighted the importance of the role of an ombudsman in championing fairness and justice rather than simply holding organisations to the minimum legal requirement.

Jonathan Slater is Permanent Secretary at the Department for Education. He worked on the new UK Strategic Framework, and has had many years’ direct experience of managing a range of departments and initiatives. Jonathan spoke passionately about the need to engage with and learn from the people who use public services, and take an evidence-based approach to service improvement.

Looking forward

In my own remarks, I highlighted the substantial progress made by PHSO in the last twelve months, as detailed in our annual report. We have taken significant strides in engagement, improving case handling, and developing the skills of our case-handlers.

The report we commissioned from Sir Liam Donaldson on how we commission and use clinical advice is also being implemented. We are sharing our clinical advice with complainants and working to make sure that there is parity between the views of clinicians and complainants throughout our investigations.

Happily these positive developments have won further external acknowledgement and PHSO won the award for best change management initiative in the recent CIPD People Management Awards 2019.

Looking forward, I spoke about the construction of our new three year strategic plan (beginning in 2021) and our aims to continue to support patient safety initiatives and highlight the need to promote a transparent system for historic reviews and public enquiries.

We will also work to support the reform and integration of the administrative justice system, working more closely with the judiciary and tribunals without giving up our unique role as national Ombudsman or our independence.

I encourage you to watch the speeches and the Q&A session from the event. You can also read a summary of what we discussed at the meeting and our answers to the questions we did not have time to respond to at the meeting.