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23.01.17

Rob Behrens approved as Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

The new Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) has been named as Rob Behrens.

Behrens, who was selected from a shortlist of five candidates, was approved for the role in a pre-appointment hearing held by two parliamentary select committees last week, the Health committee and the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs committee (PACAC).

The PHSO holds government to account by considering complaints that government departments, public bodies or the NHS in England “have not acted properly or fairly or have provided a poor service”.

Chair of the Health Committee, Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, said: “We felt that Mr Behrens’s professional background and skills will allow him to bring a deep understanding of the role of Ombudsman to the challenges he will face as the PHSO.

“We wish him every success as the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman."

Behrens previously worked as the independent adjudicator for higher education in England and Wales and is currently a senior adviser to the European Network for Ombudsmen in Higher Education.

He will now lead the PHSO’s 450 employees through a ‘transition period’ while parliament considers a draft reform bill which proposes the merger of the PHSO with the Local Government Ombudsman to create a single Public Services Ombudsman. In 2014-15, the PHSO handled 29,000 complaints and investigated 5,058 cases.

The government believes that the new integrated Public Service Ombudsman would be more open and accessible to the public and better able to support the services it investigates.

Cheryl Gillan MP, a member of PACAC who chaired the pre-appointment hearing, said: “Rob Behrens has both the professional competences and personal independence necessary to fulfil this role.

“His in depth knowledge and understanding of the role of the ombudsman and the experience he has acquired at the office of the independent adjudicator in higher education will stand him in good stead in this new position.”

The outgoing PHSO, Dame Julie Mellor, said that Behrens has “considerable experience of complaint handling from his time as independent adjudicator for higher education in England and Wales”.

“He will be a great advocate for an independent service that makes impartial final decisions on complaints about UK public services and the NHS in England,” she added.

Last week, Michael King was confirmed as the new Local Government Ombudsman.

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