Meet the Ombudsman: Annual Open Meeting 2019

Manchester, 2 October 2019


Our third open meeting was attended by a diverse mix of delegates, including complainants, complaint handlers and representatives of national bodies.   

The meeting followed the publication of our annual report.


Rob Behrens, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

The meeting began with a series of presentations starting with the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, Rob Behrens. Rob spoke about how we have been continued to improve the quality and consistency of our service over the last 12 months.

He talked about the organisation’s recent successes in strategic engagement and improving case handling, noting PHSO’s award for best change management initiative in the CIPD People Management Awards 2019.

The Ombudsman also shared his response to the proposals made by Sir Liam Donaldson in his report on PHSO. He stated his commitment to sharing clinical advice with complainants and ensuring parity between clinicians and complainants.

Looking to the future, Rob gave an outline of the new three-year strategic plan. This will include supporting patient safety initiatives and highlighting the need to promote a regular system for historic reviews and public enquiries. We will look to work more closely with the judiciary whilst protecting PHSO’s unique, independent role.

Jonathan Slater, Permanent Secretary at the Department for Education

Rob was followed by Jonathan Slater, Permanent Secretary at the Department for Education. Jonathan talked passionately about the need to engage with and learn from the people who use public services. He said:

‘Through a combination of spending as much time as possible listening and thinking how we can serve, and following the evidence, we can be a better department.’

Amanda Campbell, CEO, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

After a short break, Amanda Campbell, CEO of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, addressed the audience. She spoke about the importance of complaints and handlers treating one another with respect.

Amanda also highlighted important improvements we have made to our service, including clearing a backlog of cases and investing in training staff.

Rosemary Agnew, Scottish Public Services Ombudsman

Amanda was then joined on stage by Scottish Public Services Ombudsman, Rosemary Agnew. Rosemary answered Amanda’s questions on the value of having a complaints standards framework to ensure a consistent level of service across organisations, and how to approach implementing one. 

Peter Tyndall, Ombudsman for Ireland and President of the International Ombudsman Institute

Peter Tyndall, Ombudsman for Ireland and President of the International Ombudsman Institute, then spoke to the audience. He outlined the scope and work of his office before using a number of case studies to highlight key themes.

One of these was the distinction between the legal minimum and what constitutes fair and just public service, and the Ombudsman’s role in championing the latter. Another was the importance of international cooperation in settling cases that fall across different geographical jurisdictions.

Peter also noted the benefits of being able to report to a parliamentary committee if formal recommendations are not implemented by an investigated body.

Question and answer session

The meeting closed with a question and answer session, expertly facilitated by Sarah Barclay, founder of the Medical Mediation Foundation. The panel included Rob Behrens, Amanda Campbell, Rosemary Agnew and Peter Tyndall.

There were challenging questions from a good cross section of the audience, with complainants passionate about changes they want to see. The panel took questions on mitigating the negative impacts of the complaints process for both complainants and complaints handlers, as well as ensuring that everyone involved in complaints handling treats others with respect.

Delegates attending from health and government bodies spoke of what changes could be made to improve their experience of delivering excellent public services. This included more resources, training and a consistent framework for complaints standards.

You can watch the live-stream of the meeting below:

Meet the Ombudsman: Annual Open Meeting 2019 Manchester Live Stream

You can also read our answers to the questions we did not have time to respond to at the meeting.