The work of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) is “unaccountable and wholly ineffective”, according to a leading patient charity.

The Patients Association, an independent charity which campaigns to ensure the voice of patients is heard within the health and social care system, has raised concerns over the PHSO’s ability to challenge bad practice in the NHS or bring about improvements to NHS services.

The Patients Association has released a report which highlights how families who have turned to the PHSO for support feel that they receive “inadequate, untimely, secretive and unacceptably flawed and out-dated investigation processes” as their claims of malpractice were investigated.

The report details individual cases where people’s dealings with the PHSO have only served to “compound the grief and hurt” that they were already experiencing as a result of poor NHS care.

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: “The Health Ombudsman should be a court of last resort where uncorrected mistakes by the NHS can finally be put right, but the process is not fit for purpose and often ends up compounding the grief of families. The quality, accuracy, objectivity, effectives, openness and honesty of its reports is shameful.”

Linda Millband, National Practice Lead for clinical negligence based in Thompsons Solicitors’ Birmingham office, commented: “The biggest concern about the findings of a report like this is that there may well be cases where the PHSO has concluded that a patient’s treatment in the NHS has been satisfactory when the reality is that it has been anything but.

“We would urge people who have lodged a complaint with the PHSO who still believe their case has not been appropriately investigated to seek legal advice to see where they stand.

“At Thompsons, we have access to a network of medical professionals and support workers across the UK who help us to investigate medical negligence claims meticulously. We are here to support anyone who feels they may have been mistreated at the hands of the NHS or the PHSO.”