Deputy Chief of NHS Complaints Watchdog Resigns Over Cover-Up

Mick Martin, the deputy Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO), has resigned over his involvement in covering up the sexual harassment of a director at an NHS trust.

Martin had occupied the position of deputy chief of the NHS complaint watchdog, and thus his resignation can be considered a significant embarrassment for the organisation.

Prior to his resignation, Martin had already been forced to take a leave of absence after being criticised by an employment tribunal earlier this year.

The outcome of this tribunal has led to a payment of £832,711 being proffered to the individual in question, who cannot be fully named for legal reasons, although it is known that her name is Ms. Marks.

Following these unpleasant revelations, the board of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman has launched a follow-up investigation.

The decision to appoint Martin in the first place is being queried, along with the actions taken by Dame Julie Mellor; the individual tasked with the position of ombudsman.

It would be fair to say that the complaint watchdog has suffered its fair share of difficulties in recent times, with the past two years having been particularly challenging for the ombudsman.

In particular, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has explicitly criticised the way that the watchdog dealt with the case of a three-year-old who died in NHS care.

And the National Audit Office has also been critical of the way that the ombudsman is governed, while the Health Select Committee believes that the organisation does a poor job in responding to the complaints of patients.

In a recent survey only 11 per cent of staff at the PHSO said they had confidence in the leadership, and Dame Julie has faced calls to resign from health sector observers and experts.

An employment tribunal last year heard how, when vice chair of the Derbyshire Healthcare Foundation Trust, Mr Martin “assisted” the chair of the trust, Alan Baines, in covering up his conduct relating to HR director Helen Marks.

Commenting on the issue, a spokesperson for the PHSO office recognised that there had been fundamental failings in this case, and indicated that the organisation intends to improve the way that it operates as a result.

“Mr Martin has decided to resign from his position, recognising the impact recent events have had on the organisation, in particular its staff, and its ability to focus on providing a high quality service for people who need our service. We are conducting a separate independent review looking at the actions we took and the procedures we followed as an organisation. We will be open and honest about the findings from this and will implement any lessons learnt from that review.”

The position of Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman was created, and his or her powers are documented in, the Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967.


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