Posted: Mon 15th Jul 2019

Complaints made to Ombudsman about Welsh NHS bodies hit a record high last year

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Monday, Jul 15th, 2019

Complaints made to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales about Welsh NHS bodies hit a record high last year, new figures show.

The Ombudsman’s Annual Report and Accounts for 2018/19 reveal that complaints against NHS bodies – which include Health Boards and Trusts, GPs and dentists – increased by 9 per cent on the previous year – rising from 924 to 1007.

Complaints about Health Boards in Wales rose by 4 per cent to 1,007 in 2018/19 compared to 924 in 2017/18 – the first time that the number of complaints about NHS bodies has exceeded 1,000 in one year. 

The Public Services Ombudsman received 194 complaints about North Wales health board Betsi Cadwaladr last year, a rise of 4 per cent and the highest number of any health board in Wales. 

The Health Board with the most substantial year-on-year increase in complaints was Abertawe Bro Morgannwg, which was the subject of 139 complaints in 2018/19 compared to 121 in 2017/18.

There was also a significant increase in the number of complaints about other NHS bodies such as GPs and Dentists.

In total, the Ombudsman received 2489 complaints, 10per cent more than in the previous year.

Of the 532 complaints against public bodies resolved or upheld, 55 per cent related to health service providers.

New legislation comes into force on July 23rd that gives the Ombudsman own initiative powers, enabling his office to investigate a public body without a complaint being made, where it is deemed in the wider public interest.

Under the Public Services Ombudsman (Wales) Bill, the Ombudsman’s office will have a range of other new powers designed to widen access to justice and reduce poor service delivery. These new powers will enable him to investigate the private healthcare element of complaints involving a mixture of public and private healthcare.

In addition, the Bill ensures complaint data will be more effectively recorded and analysed than has previously been the case, allowing patterns of poor service to be identified more quickly.

Public Services Ombudsman for Wales, Nick Bennett, said:

“The increase in health complaints – which now make up 41per cent of my office’s total caseload – is of real concern. Despite the continued pressure and strain on the office as a result of increased numbers of health complaints, my staff have succeeded in increasing case closures substantially, compared with the previous year, which is a fantastic achievement.

“Complaints about healthcare are complex and sensitive, so unsurprisingly they are five times more likely to require investigation than complaints about other public services. These cases can be complex and time-consuming to investigate because I frequently need to seek clinical advice to inform my decision making.

“When my office finds an injustice, we expect bodies to build on the learning from my investigations – only if they do this will complaints reduce, and service delivery improve for all users.

“It is concerning, then, that almost one in ten complaints about NHS bodies were about complaint handling. This suggests that there is a deeper cultural issue within Health Boards, which I hope the additional powers provided under the new legislation can help address.”

The other areas where there were significant numbers of complaints against public bodies are housing (12 per cent), complaint handling (11 per cent) social services and planning and building control (9 per cent each).

The total number of Code of Conduct complaints against members of local authorities increased slightly by 4 per cent from 270 to 282.

Within this, complaints against members of Town and Community Councils increased significantly, by 14 per cent.

Nick Bennett said:

“We are receiving an ever-growing number of complaints at a time when our public services face an immense strain, facing the triple-headed monster that is austerity, an ageing society and increased demand.

“The new legislation governing my work provides for a more proactive role for my office and will ensure that our services are accessible to all. My challenge now is to fully use these new powers to deliver justice for all public service users in Wales, and provide a platform for constructive learning that will benefit all of us.”

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