In a report into investigations of clinical incidents by the NHS, the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) raised serious questions about the Ombudsman’s capacity and capability to investigate complaints about clinical matters. The PASC recommends that that the Ombudsman’s office "should concentrate its energy on improving its internal culture and competence" in respect of its current, ongoing investigations. The report says this programme of change should be its main priority.
| Doctors also want investigations to be carried out fairly and promptly so they have the opportunity to make any improvements to improve patient care as early as possible|
| Dr Michael Devlin|
Dr Michael Devlin, MDU head of professional standards and liaison, gave evidence to the PASC inquiry. He said that when assisting doctor and dentist members the MDU had seen a deterioration in the quality of the Ombudsman’s investigations over the last few years "in terms of the detail and analysis provided in the report and because there are often long delays that did not happen in the past".
Commenting on the report, Dr Devlin said:
"We welcome the findings and support the PASC’s recommendations to improve the Ombudsman's investigations. It is natural that patients will expect a prompt, thorough and fair investigation of complaints that are made to the Ombudsman. Doctors also want investigations to be carried out fairly and promptly so they have the opportunity to make any improvements to improve patient care as early as possible. We welcome the PASC's recommendations that the Ombudsman’s service needs to change in many respects and that the main focus should be on implementing the programme of change to improve their complaint handling capacity and competence."
The MDU also welcomed the Health Service Commissioner for England (Complaint Handling) Bill which was passed by parliament yesterday and will soon get Royal Assent. Brought by David Davis MP, this Private Member's Bill will require the Ombudsman to tell a complainant for the reasons for the delay if their investigation is not finished within 12 months. The Ombudsman will also need to provide an annual report to Parliament detailing how long complaints are taking to be investigated and what the Ombudsman is doing to ensure complaints are concluded within a year.
| It would be a big step if the Ombudsman was pressured to conclude all investigations within a year, but there must be no compromise on the fairness or thoroughness of the investigation|
| Dr Michael Devlin|
Dr Devlin added:
"Many Ombudsman investigations take far too long and that is no good for patients or the doctors and dentists under investigation. It would be a big step if the Ombudsman was pressured to conclude all investigations within a year, but there must be no compromise on the fairness or thoroughness of the investigation."