Why are we developing a service charter?

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman is the final stage of the complaints system for people who complain that they have been treated unfairly, or have received a poor service from the NHS in England or a UK government department or agency. Our role is to investigate complaints fairly, without taking sides. We also make recommendations to put things right, to prevent the same problem from happening again.

 We understand that some people lack the confidence to complain or realise that complaining can make a difference. We also know that people’s real sense of satisfaction with our service often depends on whether we find in their favour and uphold their complaint, and we can’t always do that.

Some people will be disappointed when we don’t uphold their case, and this will affect how they feel about our service. That is why that it is important for us to be open and transparent about the way we do things, so people understand how we make decisions and have confidence in them.

We recognise that sometimes our service has not been as good as we would have liked. But we are determined to modernise and provide a good quality service to the people and organisations that use it.

What we have heard

The feedback we have received has included criticism of our present service, how we do things and our decisions. For some people, there is a lack of clarity about our role, and also they feel we raise a complainant’s expectations beyond what we can provide.

Some issues that have been raised are:

  • communication
  • personal interaction
  • transparency in how we work and
  • keeping to timescales

This feedback has not been confined to people who are dissatisfied with our decision on their case, but also reflects the views of some people whose case we have upheld, and of some of the organisations we investigate.

We know that there are some things we already do well, however from the feedback there is a lack of consistency across our organisation, and we must respond to these issues.

We have drawn on this feedback to evaluate everything we do and how we do it; from the way we explain our role to people and what they can expect from our service, to how we carry out our investigations and communicate our decisions.

The draft charter

We are making changes to our service that will mean approaching our work in new ways, and require cultural shift for our organisation. We are realistic about the time we will need to take to embed these changes and get everything right, but we will be open and honest about how we are doing on this journey. We are now developing a clear set of promises of what people can expect from us when they use our service, and we are launching this as a draft service charter.

The draft charter is now available.

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