Medicopolitical Digest

Ombudsman will be given new powersDoctors' performance bill receives royal assentBMA wants a bill to protect young people from tobaccoPart time working has implications for GP manpowerDispensing threatened in Northern Ireland

BMJ 1995; 311 doi: (Published 18 November 1995) Cite this as: BMJ 1995;311:1374

Ombudsman will be given new powers

  1. Linda Beecham

    Legislation to extend the jurisdiction of the health service ombudsman to cover clinical complaints aginst NHS staff and all complaints against general practitioners is to be introduced by the government during the current session of parliament, which opened with the Queen's speech on Wednesday. At present complaints concerning the exercise of clinical judgment are excluded from the ombudsman's remit. He is also restricted in hearing complaints against family health service providers--general practitioners, dentists, pharmacists, and opticians. These restrictions will be lifted. Of the formal complaints against family doctors, currently outside the ombudsman's scope, almost half relate to failure to visit or failure to diagnose.

    In its response to the Wilson committee on complaints procedures, the government announced in March that it would seek legislative time to extend the ombudsman's jurisdiction “to all complaints by, or on behalf of, NHS patients.” It added that the ombudsman would need access to appropriate professional advice in undertaking these new responsibilities. As a rule complainants would not be able to complain to the ombudsman before they had exhausted the internal complaints system. A Commons select committee reported in 1993 that the extensions would add considerably to the ombudsman's work and possibly mean the separation of the offices of parliamentary and health service ombudsmen. About 25% of complaints to the ombudsman are rejected because they concern clinical judgment.

    Another bill in the new session will permit local authorities to make direct payments to disabled people as part of their community care plan, …

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