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Ombudsmen forge closer ties amid calls for single organisation

The Local Government Ombudsman (LGO), Dr Jane Martin, has joined the unitary body of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) as part of a move to establish closer ties between the two bodies.

The LGO and PHSO, which already carry out joint investigations, have been calling for the establishment of a single Public Services Ombudsman to handle complaints about all public services, including health and social care in England.

“This will make it easier for people to complain as it will provide a more consistent approach to complaint handling and it will ensure a more efficient service,” they argued.

The PHSO, Julie Mellor, is already a member of the LGO’s board (known as the Commission for Local Administration).

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The PHSO’s remit is to investigate complaints about NHS services and government departments and its agencies, whilst the LGO investigates complaints about councils, other authorities and organisations including school admissions appeal panels and adult social care providers, such as care homes.

Joint investigations by the PHSO and the LGO have been about individuals let down by social care and NHS services, government departments and their agencies.

The most recent published investigation by the two bodies found that an ex-miner was deprived of his liberty – without proper account of the law being taken – when he was prevented from going home to die beside his brother.

The report suggested that there had been a ‘string of errors’ by the five organisations tasked with looking after the man.

Commenting on Dr Martin’s appointment, Mellor said: “I am delighted that Dr Jane Martin has joined our board. We are both committed to securing a Public Ombudsman Service that is more accessible for the public, more useful for parliament and better value for money. Working more closely together will help us to achieve that.

‘We want complaints about public services to be handled by one ombudsman service so that so it can be dealt with by the same organisation throughout the complaints process.”

Dr Martin said: “The Commission for Local Administration has benefited greatly, over many years, from the input that the Parliamentary and Health Ombudsman has provided to our work.”

She said her appointment would help further build co-operation and the sharing of learning.

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