The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman has today published a set of quality standards, which are commitments to people who use the service about what they can expect from it.
The quality standards, available in the form of a Service Charter, have been published alongside more detailed guidance about what happens when a complaint is brought to the Ombudsman service, at each stage of the complaints process.
This explains the different things that are considered when looking into a complaint, how decisions are made, what to expect if a complaint is investigated and the reasons why a complaint might not be investigated.
The Service Charter and the detailed guidance about processes were drawn up with a range of people, following a public consultation and extensive engagement with past and future complainants, NHS and public sector organisations, advocacy groups and staff.
People told the Ombudsman service that they wanted it to be clear about its role and the things it can and cannot do, explain the process for deciding on complaints, keep people updated, complete casework as quickly as possible, and to be open about performance against the commitments in the Service Charter.
Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Julie Mellor said:
'We have listened to people and are clear about what they want and expect from us.
'This is reflected in our new Service Charter, which is a set of quality standards which we will report on, and our commitments to people who use our service.
'We recognise it will take time for us to meet these commitments but we will work hard to do so and will be open and transparent about our progress.'
Satisfaction with any ombudsman service is closely linked to whether or not a complaint is upheld or not. The Service Charter commits the Ombudsman service to clearly explaining any decision made on complaints, and how those decisions were reached, so that people understand the decisions and have confidence in the service.
Changes have already been made to the Ombudsman service to help ensure that the commitments in the Service Charter are met, such as providing more regular updates to people who use the service.
The Ombudsman service will begin publishing information regularly on its website, from the end of 2016, about its performance, in line with the commitments in the service charter as well as report to Parliament about it. This will include the length of time investigations have taken and customer satisfaction data.
Notes to editors
The Ombudsman service makes final decisions on unresolved complaints about the NHS in England, UK government departments and some other UK public organisations.
It investigates around 4,000 investigations a year and around 80 per cent of these are about the NHS in England.