• New health service ombudsman approved by MPs after joint hearings last week
  • Rob Behrens is currently head of the Office of the Independent Adjudicator in Higher Education
  • Mr Behrens will replace Dame Julie Mellor who resigned last year

The new parliamentary and health service ombudsman has been approved after appearing before MPs in the House of Commons last week.

Rob Behrens is currently head of the Office of the Independent Adjudicator in Higher Education, which handles student complaints against higher education providers in England.

Rob Behrens

Rob Behrens

Rob Behrens has 10 years’ experience in ombudsman roles

Prime Minister Theresa May wrote to MPs putting forward Mr Behrens as the preferred candidate earlier this month.

Mr Behrens told the Commons public administration and constitutional affairs committee last week that he would bring 10 years’ experience as an ombudsman to the PHSO role, but added: “I do recognise it is an immensely difficult job.”

Mr Behrens will replace Dame Julie Mellor, who resigned from the watchdog last year, after HSJ exposed her failure to take action after she was warned her former deputy, Mick Martin, had been involved in the cover up of the sexual harassment of an NHS director.

Dame Julie resigned in July, after Mr Martin who resigned in March when HSJ highlighted his role in the mistreatment of Derbyshire Healthcare Foundation trust’s former HR director Helen Marks, who was awarded £830,000 compensation last year for unfair dismissal.

Mr Behrens is currently a visiting professor at the UCL Institute of Education and is a non-executive board member of the Bar Standards Board and chair of its qualifications committee.

He will lead the PHSO through a transition period as Parliament considers major reforms to the ombudsman service, including the creation of a new Public Service Ombudsman with new powers and governance structures to make the watchdog more transparent and accountable.

Cheryl Gillan, who chaired the committee hearing last week, 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.”

Chair of the Commons health committee, Sarah Wollaston, said: “We felt that Mr Behrens’ 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.”