Who is the Health Service Ombudsman, and how can they help?

Who is the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman?

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman is a role set up by Parliament to investigate complaints where an individual believes there has been injustice or hardship because an organisation has not acted properly or fairly, or has given a poor service and not put things right. The current Ombudsman is Dame Julie Mellor. She makes final, and fair decision on complaints that remain unresolved by, for instance, the NHS and other government or public organisations.

How can the health service ombudsman help me?

If you have gone through the NHS complaints procedure, but you are dissatisfied with the outcome, you can refer the matter to the Ombudsman. The Health Service Ombudsman (also called the Health Service Commissioner) investigates complaints about the NHS and is independent of the NHS.

She investigates complaints where there is evidence that prejudice or hardship has been caused by failure to provide a service; failure in the service itself; or maladministration. Maladministration may include:

  • slow or unsatisfactory responses to letters
  • incorrect or misleading information and advice
  • refusal to give information
  • discrimination
  • rudeness or unhelpfulness
  • failure to follow reasonable rules in procedures and administration
  • poor health services, such as a long wait for treatment or an operation
  • failure to provide a disability aid
  • dirty wards at a hospital
  • unhelpful or inadequate staffing at a hospital
  • complaints about GPs, dentists, opticians and pharmacists working for the NHS, and
  • refusal to provide information to which you are entitled.

The Ombudsman does not have to take up every complaint. Out of more than 29,000 complaints received each year, just over 25% are considered. The Ombudsman will not investigate a case that has not been through the NHS complaints procedure. She will also not usually investigate a case that you could be expected to pursue in the court.

There is no right of appeal against the Ombudsman’s decision, and she will only establish a fresh examination into a grievance if new information is received which could not reasonably have been recognised earlier (this is highly unusual).

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For more information on:

  • What is the advantage of complaining to the Ombudsman?
  • Making a Complaint
  • How to complain?
  • What will happen?
  • Cost