Admit only what is harmless – complaint handling mantra

On radio 4 this week it was revealed that Kim Philby, notorious traitor,  advised Soviet spies;

If confronted, never, ever confess.  “So my advice to you is to tell all your agents that they are never to confess.  If they are confronted with a photograph of themselves with a Soviet contact or a German contact – it’s a fake.  If they confront you with a report in your own handwriting – it’s a forgery.  Just deny everything.  Only admit what is harmless.  Admit anything you safely can, but deny that essential link with any foreign intelligence service, and you’re alright.”  The Philby Tape Radio 4

I guess that’s what you learn with an Oxbridge education.  In my humble comprehensive school we were taught to always tell the truth, to treat others as you wish to be treated and to trust in authority.  Consequently, when I complained to those in authority I expected them to deal with the evidence of wrong doing with robust integrity.  More fool me.

When public bodies mess up, the backlash should be felt in parliament where the poor decisions, lack of funding or ambiguous regulations were decided in the first place.  Rather than take the flak directly, parliament elects ‘arms length bodies’ to act independently as ‘regulators’ and ‘watchdogs’.  Bodies such as the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.  They are supposedly independent of politicians, but it is politicians who appoint them (under the guise of the Crown).

Philby was asked by the Soviet spies how he managed to get away with his treachery for so long.  His answer is quite revealing.

“There were many people in SIS who were involved in my recruitment into SIS and my promotion in SIS. Who had worked with me in SIS and given me a lot of information in SIS.  Those people would be very, very anxious personally to see me made innocent, including the Chief of the whole organisation who made me Head of his counter espionage department.”  The Philby Tape Radio 4

So politicians appoint a ‘safe pair of hands’, one of their own who knows that the primary objective is ‘never confess’ and at all costs they must protect those above.  In return they are given the protection of the state and if the seat becomes a little too hot then the revolving door of appointments allows the pressure to be released and normal service to be resumed.

On 29th March,  the Ombudsman, Dame Julie Mellor,  released a blog post reassuring all comers that they could be‘confident in our service’  confident-in-our-service  Spinning a tale of ‘external reviewers’ she gives the impression that all decisions are thoroughly checked by individuals independent of the service for their accuracy and sound decision making.

We have external reviewers to assess whether our decisions are sound and are the only ombudsman service to use this external mechanism.

Turns out that in 2014/15 there were only 4 external reviewers who handled just 13% of complaints about decisions and all complaints about PHSO staff were handled internally.  FOI – internal_and_external_case_reviewers  Smoke and mirrors.

There is also news here of the new Service Charter, a set of promises to reassure the public that cases are handled with robust consistency.

…the Charter is built on the principles of fair and transparent decision-making and the need to treat customers with courtesy and respect.

The only problem here is that there is no mechanism within the Charter to hold the Ombudsman to account if the delivery falls somewhat short of the promise, which it will under the present regime.

This FOI request confirms that in the business year 2015/16 PHSO  received 1,969 requests for a review from dissatisfied complainants.  That’s 38 requests a week and this figure excludes complaints made about PHSO service delivery.  FOI – number_of_current_cases review  Given that in 2014/15 PHSO reported on 4,159 cases – 1,969 review requests would give a dissatisfaction rate of 47%.  So what happened to all that external quality assurance?

Dame Julie’s glowing summary of robust case handling was released just a few days after the staff at PHSO took a vote of no confidence in senior management Times article – vote of no confidence and two days before the Deputy Ombudman, Mick Martin resigned due to being found complicit in a cover up.  Independent article – Mick Martin resigns.

Deny everything – never confess.

The truth is that only those who have no knowledge of the Ombudsman would have cause to be ‘confident’ in their service.  NHS staff, the Patients Association, complainants, the Health Select Committee and the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs committee have all expressed the most severe doubts.   The Ombudsman herself should have resigned some time ago, but those who have to oust her are the very same as those who selected her.  They suffer the same dilemma as Philby’s boss.  Better to hang on and save face than do the right thing by the public.

So it is with great concern to see that the Chief Investigator role for the new ‘independent’ Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch  (HSIB) is to be appointed according to the approval of the Secretary of State for Health.

a Chief Investigator, to be appointed by the Authority subject to the approval of the Secretary of State and who may only be dismissed with the approval of the Secretary of State;  HSIB_directions

Another ‘safe pair of hands’ who will no doubt be schooled in the ‘never confess’ philosophy and so the game goes on….

First published by phsothetruestory.

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2 Comments

  1. I thank Della Reynolds very much for her article:The Ombudsman – safe in her hands?

    It has made interesting reading indeed and confirms much many of
    us thought but needed confirming, thanking you so much, Della.

    As a parent and a carer for 3 people in my family with special needs
    and ill health, I understand we
    have the option of approaching the Health Ombudsman after
    accessing first a local resolution, however it seems to me that
    in this case a local resolution is not possible because the hospital involved
    is not prepared to work in a reasonable manner, for their services given
    to persons caring for those on for those cared on the autistic spectrum with a learning disability.

    As historically over a number of years, we have experienced a lack
    of understanding and lack of training of this hospitals staff in approaching
    learning disabled /autistic spectrum person’s and services given.

    I come to this conclusion after my GP approached the hospital
    and my GP informed me that the hospital would not speak to him about
    the matter of health care provision from the Royal Berkshire Hospital.

    At present time I and my family are being treated unjustly by our
    local hospital Royal Berkshire for what they have done is to stop their
    services to the whole of my family for something that accuses two persons
    of something undefined and so-pose to have taken place 3 years earlier then dated letter and
    the letter has no explanation or summery of events making it impossible for the accused to address the accusers.

    We do feel it somewhat odd that this letter arrived, after and not before
    a home service from the hospital was requested from the trust for my disabled son whom is learning disabled
    and on the autistic spectrum.

    On approaching the hospitals PALS service to obtain a local resolution,
    we are informed by them that they were told by their law department advisors
    not speak with us.

    After approaching our MP, John Redwood about these accusations, whom took into account my families ill health and disabling conditions, he decided to visited us at our family home, to go into detail with him about this matter, but this action has not moved us any nearer to address our accusers for something we are
    not knowingly to have done and our MP did not advice us other then to say
    some health care is better then none!

    Certainly the some health care is all we will get by being loaded with accusations we
    cannot address directly with our accusers and even law breakers are given
    a right to a hearing that we have not been afforded or a warning from
    this establishment.
    We took the action in 2015 to seek an advocacy service known as SEAP
    and I would be interested to learn if the Chief Investigator role for the new ‘independent’ Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB),
    would enable us a hearing?

    I must point out that I feel somewhat conscious of the fact that I
    have a reputation of speaking up for my family and for what I believe
    in and certain bodies/establishments find this uncomfortable, particularly so for the status-quo whom are uneducated on making reasonable adjustments for persons with disabling conditions.

    1. It is all just a game with them. The system is designed to confuse and confound driving you to give up and save your sanity. They hate dealing with those who have the stamina to stay the course – hence the ‘vexatious’ label. The public are collectively wising up to the lack of proper regulation in this country and as more voices call for justice the balance will start to shift.

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