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Public supports right to complain direct to Ombudsman

The public would like the ability to complain direct to the Ombudsman, a new survey has shown.

Currently, anyone who is not happy with the way a public service has handled a complaint must go through their MP before the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) can look at it, but new research has found that 59% of people would like this requirement removed while only 10% support it remaining.

The research published today by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) is based on a national survey of 4,263 people. It also shows that only a third of people who are unhappy after using a public service make a complaint and 29% of those say they believe that complaining will not make a difference.

Other reasons for not lodging a complain include the opinion it would be more hassle than it’s worth (14%), it would be too time consuming (9%), a person doesn’t know how to make a complaint (7%), and the worry it won’t be taken seriously (6%).

The survey also found that people overwhelmingly support the right to complain and that 90% feel that if they are unhappy with a public service they should complain.

PHSO Julie Mellor said: "People are reluctant to make complaints to public services even though they think it is right to complain. Too many people don't know how to complain and feel that if they do it won't make a difference. This means concerns are going unheard or unaddressed.

"Public service providers need to focus on being open and honest when things go wrong. If not, we lose opportunities to learn from mistakes and improve how public services are delivered.

"We have to make complaining more simple and accessible so people have the confidence to complain. That's why we are delighted that the government has made a firm commitment to create a single Public Service Ombudsman covering all public services for England – including health and social care – and UK non-devolved services to make it easier for people to get justice when things go wrong."

Research by Healthwatch suggested a worse picture, where just a fifth people who had a poor experience of the NHS wrote a letter of complaint.

Anna Bradley, chair of the watchdog, said: "At the moment we estimate that more than 2,000 incidents of poor care a day occur across the country's health and social care services, yet the system only hears about a fraction of them because of the sheer effort it takes for patients to make themselves heard."

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