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MPs urge Government and Ombudsman to improve handling of NHS complaints

MPs have urged the government to take action to improve the NHS complaints system, properly investigate cases of historic injustice and modernise the legislation for England's Ombudsmans' services.

In a report the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) said it agreed with the new chief executive of the Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman that the time the PHSO took to investigate complaints was “simply unacceptable”.

Last year the PHSO received 31,444 new complaints, 88% about the NHS.

The MPs called on the Ombudsman to improve how it supported often very distressed complainants, and to get better at showing how its investigations help improve NHS' services for future patients.

The committee added, however, that many of the challenges the PHSO faced were made harder by the government’s slow progress on reforms to the complaints system.

It therefore called on the government to accelerate the legislation to modernise the Ombudsman and on the Department of Health to improve local NHS complaints handling and to properly resolve the historic cases where families felt they were still being denied justice.

Chair of the Committee Bernard Jenkin MP said: "Although it has much more to do we are cautiously confident that the PHSO under the new Ombudsman Rob Behrens is now on the right track. We welcome the personal commitment he has shown to rebuilding trust in the PHSO and improving the service it provides to the public.

“As a Committee we have heard from families left distressed and traumatised by making a complaint to the NHS and the PHSO. Too many people still have to complain to the Ombudsman because public services don’t deal with their complaint properly in the first place.

“The Ombudsman and his staff do a difficult job. The Government can help them by introducing the reforms it has already promised. Ministers told our committee two years ago that improving NHS complaints was "unfinished business". It is now time for action, and for the Government to introduce the long awaited legislation they have already published."

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