The Patients Association has for some years been highly critical of the performance of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO). This has been for good reason: we have received abundant evidence of PHSO letting patients down, and making things worse when they needed it to help them right a wrong. In particular, we issued three reports: 'The People's Ombudsman – How It Failed Us’ (November 2014); an immediate follow-up, 'PHSO - Labyrinth of Bureaucracy' (March 2015); and a final follow-up report in December 2016.


With this work, we called for change. And we succeeded in getting change. PHSO has recognised the scale of both its problems and the action needed to correct them. It has set out a strategy for how it will improve its performance across a period of years. We have welcomed this, and the organisation’s new leadership as of 2016-17.

However, at present PHSO is only part-way through this change programme. It has not yet produced the transformation that is needed. For now, we continue to receive calls to our helpline from patients, carers and families who are unhappy about PHSO.

We recognise that achieving change on the necessary scale will take time, but we hope PHSO will be able to show progress as soon as possible, with reference to patients’ experiences of their service. This should include closing gaps between PHSO’s casework process assurance and complainant feedback against the same measures on its Service Charter.

We will judge PHSO’s reform programme on the results it achieves for patients. During its implementation period, we will continue to raise concerns with PHSO when things have not been good enough. We will also work with PHSO to help it become a patient-focused organisation that delivers a high quality service.

Some patients and bereaved relatives who have been let down by PHSO have gone so far as to suggest that it is corrupt, or for some reason intentionally providing a bad service. We do not believe this to be the case. PHSO’s service has been bad: this problem has not yet been solved, and it has work to do to rebuild trust with patients. But we do not attribute these failures to malice, and we wish to work with the new leadership team at PHSO, providing constructive challenge. In this way, we hope that PHSO will achieve the transparency to give patients confidence that allegations of this nature are untrue.