COVID-19 – Ombudsman Activity

COVID-19 is placing huge demands on our members, including the need for the delivery of healthcare to be as effective as possible in tackling the virus

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) suspended all complaints which require contact with the NHS from Thursday 26 March 2020, in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

On members’ behalf, MDDUS wrote to the health services ombudsmen in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to understand how each nation is now approaching complaint handling. 

England

The PHSO will not accept new complaints or progress existing ones at present. 

It suspended all complaint investigations which require contact with the NHS from Thursday 26 March 2020. 

Health cases (both assessments and investigations) will only be progressed up to the point where the PHSO requires clinical advice or contact with a health organisation. 

Further information is available here

The PHSO suggests that practices use the following paragraph for complaints which have been concluded locally and which would otherwise normally be progressed to them:

‘If you’re not happy with how we’ve dealt with your complaint, you are entitled to raise your complaint with the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman. However, please note that the Ombudsman is currently not accepting any new complaints about the National Health Service because of the coronavirus pandemic. This is to help ensure the NHS can focus its resources on providing urgent healthcare. You can find out more information on the Ombudsman’s website www.ombudsman.org.uk.’

Update, 15 June 2020: The PHSO will begin accepting new health complaints and progressing existing ones from 1 July 2020.

 

Scotland

The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) told MDDUS that while they were committed to delivering their statutory responsibilities, they “in no way wish to put unnecessary pressure on public bodies and we fully support them in times of such unprecedented challenges”. 

The SPSO said they will be progressing “essential” new complaints, but expect such instances to be exceptional.

We have further information on the SPSO’s current approach available here and the page is being kept continually updated.

Wales

The Public Services Ombudsman for Wales told MDDUS it was working to maintain its normal level of service and remain accessible to people who need them.

The Public Services Ombudsman for Wales, Nick Bennett, said:

“We are in touch with health boards, the Welsh Ambulance Service Trust and local authorities and we will be guided by them in determining whether and how we can progress complaints at the moment.

We are not progressing any complaints or investigations relating to GP surgeries or pharmacies. 

We are encouraging providers to liaise with my office if their ability to supply information and engage with us is compromised by reduced capacity and increased pressures.” 

https://www.ombudsman.wales/

Update – 20/05/2020 - The Public Services Ombudsman for Wales has informed MDDUS that they have now, with their consent, restarted GP investigations.

Northern Ireland – Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman

The most recent update from the Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman’s website, from 25 March 2020, states:

“We recognise that the focus at present is on preparing for the escalation of the situation, minimising the health risks posed by the virus and on providing essential public services. We send our support to public bodies and their staff during this very difficult period.

We are looking at how best to prioritise our existing case work and how we deal with newly received complaints about public bodies. We will respond flexibly should responses to our enquiries create difficulties or unreasonable pressures on public bodies. Our complaints teams are available to discuss any issues on a case by case basis.

We will be reviewing our position regularly as this situation develops.”

Further information is available here.