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Ombudsman’s report highlights poor complaint handling and service failures across the NHS in England and UK government departments

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman has published a report containing a snapshot of summaries of the complaints it has investigated over a two month period, during which it upheld 41% of the complaints it investigated.

The report contains summaries of 163 investigations, showcasing the wide range of cases the Ombudsman service investigates about the NHS in England and UK government departments and their agencies such as the UK Border Force, the Driver and Vehicle Licencing Authority and HM Courts &Tribunals Service.

Included in the report are cases about breaches of cancer waiting times, families resorting to putting their family in private care following unsafe discharges from A&E on Christmas Day, people wrongly losing their permanent status to reside in the UK because of poor advice and people going into debt due to incorrect benefit advice.

The report published yesterday by the Ombudsman service contains summaries of 163 complaints it completed investigating in October and November 2014. During this period it made final decisions on a total of 618 complaints and upheld 41% of these complaints. In cases where the Ombudsman service doesn't uphold complaints, it is often because no failings were identified by the Ombudsman service or because the Ombudsman service found that the public service did the right thing to resolve the complaint, which the Ombudsman service then explains to the complainant.

Approximately 80% of its investigations are about the NHS in England as opposed to UK government departments and their agencies. During this two month period, most of its NHS investigations were about hospital trusts, followed by GP practices and then mental health trusts. 

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Julie Mellor said:

'These cases show the impact that service failure can have on individuals and their loved ones.

'These case studies - which are a snapshot of our work - show the wide range of unresolved complaints we look at, many of which should be resolved by the organisations locally, without people having to refer the complaint to us.

'Good complaint handling has to start from the top, and leaders will recognise the valuable opportunities complaints provide to really improve the service they are delivering.

'Many people complain about public services to enable lessons to be learnt because they don't want the same thing to happen to somebody else.'

Yesterday's report includes the following case summaries:

Most of the summaries published are cases the Ombudsman service has upheld or partly upheld. These are the cases which provide clear and valuable lesson for public services by showing what needs changing so it can be avoided in the future. They include complaints about failures to spot serious illnesses and mistakes by government departments that caused financial hardship.

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman makes formal decisions on complaints which haven't been resolved locally by the NHS in England or by UK government departments and their agencies, such as the Department for Work and Pensions, the DVLA, the Passport Office and the Highways Agency.

The Ombudsman service investigates approximately 4,000 complaints a year and upholds around 37%.

Notes to editors

  1. For more information please contact press office Steven Mather on 0300 061 4324 or email or contact senior press officer Marina Soteriou on 0300 061 4996 or email
  2. In 2014-15 approximately 79% of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman investigations were about the NHS in England and 21% were about UK government departments and their agencies.
  3. In October 2014, the Ombudsman service completed 327 investigations. Of these 252 were about the NHS in England and 75 were about UK government departments and its agencies.
  4. In November 2014, it completed 291 investigations. Of these 233 were about the NHS in England and 58 were about UK government departments and their agencies.
  5. During this two month period, the Ombudsman service upheld 60 cases, partly upheld 193 and did not uphold 321. The remaining investigations were either resolved before the formal investigation ended or closed because for example the complainant did not wish to pursue it further or because the organisation complained about, offered to do further work to resolve the complaint locally.
  6. Case summaries are published on the Ombudsman service's website, and can be searched by entering key words such as cancer, diagnosis and death, as well as by organisation, for example the name of a hospital trust and by location.
  7. This is the fourth report of case summaries the Ombudsman service has published. The first batch was published in August 2014.

Contact: Marina Soteriou

Phone: 0300 061 4996


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