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Health ombudsman reopens complaints process to help NHS ‘learn lessons’ from Covid

by Awil Mohamoud
1 July 2020

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The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) has today reopened its complaints process, after putting it on pause in late March due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The ombudsman said it is ‘vital that we begin to learn from any mistakes made in the handling of the crisis’, and has encouraged the public to get in touch with the NHS with any concerns about the service they received, and to file a complaint with it, if the issue cannot be resolved through a local process.

People have approached the PHSO in recent weeks about having their cancer treatment cancelled and being given the wrong Covid-19 test results, it said. 

Ombudsman Rob Behrens commented: ‘Complaining when something has gone wrong should not be about criticising doctors, nurses or other frontline public servants, who have often been under extraordinary pressure dealing with the Covid-19 crisis. 

‘It is about identifying where things have gone wrong systemically and making sure lessons are learned so mistakes are not repeated.’

He repeated his calls for the Government to amend existing rules that prevent his office from launching investigations without first receiving a complaint. These are ‘powers available to most other national ombudsman around the world’ he said. 

The PHSO also urged the Government to share any potential plans for an inquiry into its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.  

Responding to the reopening of the complaints procedure, NHS Providers director of policy and strategy Miriam Deakin said: ‘Whilst it was right that PHSO paused its work on NHS complaints to enable the health service to focus on tackling the pandemic, we welcome the reopening of this part of its service as trusts seek to recover and return to a ‘new normal’’.

She added the NHS should continue developing ‘a culture of transparency and openness’ and learn from complaints, as it would help to continuously improve the care people receive. 

‘Ahead of a potential second peak, it is right that we both celebrate the significant achievements of the NHS during this period, learn from the government’s handling of the crisis and reflect on the real experiences of those who use public services,’ she added.