A constructive and engaging Open Meeting 2018

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Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

Last month, we held our second Annual Open Meeting, this time in central London. The event demonstrates our ambition to be a more outward-facing, accessible, and transparent ombudsman service. 

Approximately 200 delegates attended. Over a third of those were complainants. Other attendees included complaint handlers from organisations we investigate across the health sector and parliamentary departments, and those involved in making policy decisions.

The aim of the meeting is to explain what we do, listen to our service users, and learn from those engaged in the business of complaints resolution. We do this to help build trust in PHSO as well as the organisations that we investigate. 

Once again, the Open Meeting was constructive and engaging, and allowed complainants the opportunity to express their views. They were also able to hold our CEO, Amanda Campbell, and I to account through rigorous questioning.  

Guest speakers

We were joined by two outstanding keynote speakers: James Titcombe OBE and Angela MacDonald CBE.

James Titcombe is a patient safety campaigner whose son Joshua died nine days after his birth at Furness General Hospital. It took four years of pressure from James for PHSO to open an investigation into Joshua’s death. His agreement to speak at our high-profile event was therefore of great symbolic importance. 

James spoke passionately and authoritatively about patient safety, and graciously about the important role of a reformed ombudsman service. Next month, James is my guest on Radio Ombudsman. His generosity, focus and policy knowledge were fully evident in our conversation. Subscribe to Radio Ombudsman to be kept up to date on broadcast dates and listen to other recent guests. 

Angela MacDonald is Chair of the Cross-Government Complaints Forum and a very senior player in HMRC. She spoke with infectious enthusiasm and detailed knowledge of the benefits of treating complainants with patience, respect and understanding. Her excellent contributions to the day went a long way to ensuring that the Parliamentary side of our role was represented. 

Recalibrating relationships

In my own remarks, I highlighted that the publication of our new three-year strategic plan marks a turning of the page in our history. The themes of the plan are developing competence through investment in our staff, transparency to promote understanding of our operations, and partnerships with organisations that we investigate and regulators.

These themes are our way of recalibrating our relationship with complainants and stakeholders without surrendering our core role or our essential independence. 

I encourage you to watch the speeches and the Q&A session from the event. You can also read a summary of what happened on the day.