Julie Mellor resigns as Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman

Ombudsman steps down after admitting “mistakes” in her handling of correspondence about former managing director who covered up sexual harassment

By Suzannah.Brecknell

05 Jul 2016

Dame Julie Mellor, who has resigned as Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman. Source: PA images

The Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman (PHSO) Dame Julie Mellor has resigned over the way she handled correspondence about the PHSO’s former managing director Mick Martin.

Martin resigned in April 2016, after it emerged that an employment tribunal had ruled he helped to cover up sexual harassment in his previous job at the Derbyshire Healthcare Foundation.

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The tribunal ruled that Martin, during his tenure as vice chair and acting chair of the Derbyshire Healthcare Foundation, had helped cover up harassment of the trust’s former human resources director Helen Marks by the former chair Alan Baines.

Marks wrote to Dame Julie in July 2015 with a copy of the ruling, but Martin did not resign until nine months later.

At the same time as Martin resigned, the PHSO board commissioned Sir Alex Allan, former chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee, to investigate the PHSO’s decision to hire Martin in 2014, and look into its response when it found out about the employment tribunal ruling.

Writing to Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee chair Bernard Jenkin to inform him of her resignation, Mellor wrote: “I have accepted and taken responsibility for the mistakes I made.”

Mellor said that she offered to resign when Allan’s review was commissioned, but the board requested that she wait until after the review before considering her own position.

The review is now complete and although it is not likely to be published for several weeks, Mellor said she has decided to resign now to give government time to consider the possibility of a joint appointment to the PHSO and Local Government Ombudsman roles.

“I am letting you know my decision now in order to facilitate the process of Ombudsman reform,” she wrote, explaining that she had argued “passionately” for the creation of a single Public Sector Ombudsman. 

In a reply to Dame Julie, Jenkin thanked her for agreeing to stay on until a successor was appointed, and praised the work she has done to reform the PHSO. “I want to place on record how you have built on the work of your predecessor with vision and commitment. Under your leadership, PHSO is more engaged with parliament, and with your encouragement, we now use your most important reports to drive improvement in the public services more effectively.”

He added: “You have always been open with me that you made a mistake in handling correspondence about your previous managing director. It is typically conscientious of you to apply the most rigorous standards to yourself.”

Sir John Shortridge, chair of the PHSO board, said: “We are very grateful to Julie Mellor for her contribution in leading the transformation of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.

“With her at the helm, the ombudsman service has opened its doors to more people than ever before, providing justice to the very many people who have been failed by public services."

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