Public Sector: Ombudsman nets Aylett to head comms function

The Office of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman has hired former Department of Health head of news Philip Aylett as its director of strategy and comms. The move follows last month's departure of Sarah Sleet to charity the Coeliac UK.

Aylett joins the office - which investigates complaints about central government departments, their agencies and the NHS in England - next week, and takes charge of a four-strong comms team.

The ombudsman is also charged with communicating the findings of its investigations to promote best practice and improve public services.

Aylett will report to ombudsman Ann Abraham, who was appointed in 2002.

He arrives from the House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee, which helps set the agenda for public service issues.

At the committee, Aylett advised chairman Tony Wright and members on strategy. He was Department of Health head of news from 1998 to 1999.

Existing issues range from funding care for the elderly to complaints over the Government's handling of the Equitable Life scandal.

Equitable Life came close to collapse in 2000 and its policyholders saw the value of their savings cut as a result. The mutual life insurer had to slash the pensions and retirement savings of its policyholders to stay afloat and was forced to close to new business. The ombudsman is examining the role of financial regulators in the case.

Responsibility for complaints over the Freedom of Information Act was recently handed to the Information Commissioner's Office.

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