Public Services Ombudsman (Wales) Bill: evidence session 11 – financial scrutiny

Jan 25, 2018 | Articles, Assembly Business | 0 comments

Plenary 25th January 2018

11:48
Gareth Bennett AM

Gareth Bennett AM

Party: United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)

Thanks, Chair. We mentioned the committee’s expert adviser a couple of times. He has looked at the inability of the RIA to estimate costs of the Bill to private health providers, and he thinks that’s a significant omission. He has also suggested that you could estimate those costs using the same methodology as for the estimation of costs to public bodies. So, what do you think about that?

Simon Thomas AM

Simon Thomas AM

Party: Plaid Cymru

We did look at this when we prepared the RIA. I think the difficulty is that we don’t have access to the figures of the real costs within the private sector. I don’t think it’s appropriate to use public sector figures to estimate a private sector part. There are two reasons for that: we don’t have the evidence, because the ombudsman doesn’t have the powers to demand that information, and, secondly, we’re not looking here—and this is very important, I think—in this part of the Bill, at the whole of a treatment in the private sector; it’s that bit of treatment in the private sector that comes within NHS treatment.

So, the figures that you’ve had, for example, given to you by the Independent Healthcare Sector Complaints Adjudication Service, ISCAS, as I think they’re called, relating to their costs of investigating, those are figures relating to costs of investigating complete treatment plans in the private sector. So, I think we’re in danger of comparing, if I may say, apples and pears here. They’re two different things.

There are two things that are underlining what’s in the RIA from the point of view of the public services ombudsman. One is—and I think you’ve had evidence from the Wales Audit Office here as well—this is a very de minimis kind of level. We’re talking about seven cases a year. So, there’s a question of how much is reasonable for us to do in terms of going after small sums and figures when, in fact, it doesn’t really change the overall balance. Secondly, as I say, we don’t have access to true figures in this sector. So, although I would agree that there is an omission there, it’s a kind of deliberate omission, because we haven’t got the figures and we don’t have access to the figures.

Gareth Bennett AM

Gareth Bennett AM

Party: United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)

You mentioned the figure of possibly seven cases a year containing a private healthcare element, but it might not be that low. There might be more. So, would you be prepared to undertake further analysis of the financial implications of this part of the Bill so that the ombudsman is prepared for scenarios under which the number of cases is significantly above that level?

Simon Thomas AM

Simon Thomas AM

Party: Plaid Cymru

The figure of seven that we have there currently is based on actual experience. It’s based on what the ombudsman deals with now, the number of cases that he comes across annually during which somebody has entered into an element of private healthcare, whereas the rest has been delivered by the NHS. I would suggest to the committee that the only likely scenario where that figure would change significantly in a way that would impact on an RIA is that there would be a public policy change about the use of private healthcare in the NHS in Wales. I don’t see how else the figure would change significantly. So, in that sense, again, I come back to the argument that I think there is a limit to how much work you should undertake, and ask yourself—. When it doesn’t change the global figure, which is around £30,000, you can divide it up in different ways, you can work it out in different ways, but you’re still talking about roughly the same figure in the RIA. We just need to understand that, sometimes, you’re chasing detail that won’t actually enrich your understanding of the Bill or the costs of the Bill.

Gareth Bennett AM

Gareth Bennett AM

Party: United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)

Thanks.