Welsh NHS com­plaints have dou­bled in a decade

Caernarfon Herald - - YOUR COMMUNITY -

THE NUM­BER of com­plaints about health ser­vices in Wales has dou­bled in a decade, ac­cord­ing to the pub­lic ser­vice om­buds­man.

Nick Ben­nett re­vealed he con­tin­ues to see an in­crease in griev­ances re­lat­ing to Betsi Cad­wal­adr Univer­sity Health Board (BCUHB) – in par­tic­u­lar, Ys­byty Glan Cl­wyd.

Dur­ing a visit to North Wales last week, Mr Ben­nett spoke out after up­hold­ing a com­plaint, iron­i­cally from a worker who deals with hospi­tal com­plaints, about her fa­ther’s care and “pre­ventable death” at Ys­byty Gwynedd on Christ­mas Day.

Mr Ben­nett’s re­port, which was pub­lished on the day of his visit, slammed health bosses for be­ing “disin­gen­u­ous” and re­fus­ing to ad­mit their fail­ings.

Yes­ter­day, he said there needs to be a “cul­ture change” but ad­mit­ted it “wasn’t go­ing to hap­pen overnight.”

In an in­ter­view with our sis­ter paper the Daily Post, Mr Ben­nett said: “I’d say the num­ber of health com­plaints has dou­bled over the past 10 years and I’ve con­tin­ued to see in­creases in com­plaints about BCUHB over the last cou­ple of years, that’s why we’ve got an im­prove­ment of­fi­cer work­ing with them to try to make sure we see those num­bers come down.

“To give an in­di­ca­tion of where we are right now, last year I pub­lished six pub­lic in­ter­est re­ports – that’s the most se­ri­ous com­plaints we’ve had across the whole of Wales – and three of those were about BCUHB.

“In fact, all of them were to do with ser­vices at Ys­byty Glan Cl­wyd.

“I’m pleased to say that I do meet with se­nior of­fi­cials there reg­u­larly, I think they un­der­stand they need to change the cul­ture and drive im­prove­ment, but that’s not go­ing to hap­pen overnight.

“A num­ber of the com­plaints I re­ceive will have been 18 months to two years old, so I’d ex­pect to see a lag PIC: HADYN IBALL be­tween the things that we re­ceive this year and where the health board ac­tu­ally are now. I would hope that in two years time, we will see im­prove­ments.”

He added: “I’ve des­ig­nated my most ex­pe­ri­enced and se­nior in­ves­ti­ga­tors to work with BCUHB, and some of the other health boards that have very high lev­els of com­plaints, to make sure that they can im­prove the way in which they in­ter­act with the pub­lic, who may have a con­cern about as­pects of health care.”

The om­buds­man’s of­fice in its cur- rent form has been in ex­is­tence for 10 years.

Mr Ben­nett, who has worked in pub­lic ser­vices for the past 25 years, has been in the role for three years, and has 60 staff deal­ing with more than 7,000 con­tacts with the Welsh pub­lic ev­ery year, in­ves­ti­gat­ing com­plaints to do with all de­volved ar­eas in Wales.

Al­most 40% of com­plaints are health re­lated and 40% re­late to lo­cal gov­ern­ment ser­vices.

The om­buds­man, who comes from An­gle­sey but is based in Cardiff, also has pow­ers to in­ves­ti­gate com­plaints about the code of con­duct of lo­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tives for the 22 uni­tary author­i­ties in Wales and the 735 town and com­mu­nity coun­cils.

He high­lighted pre­vi­ous is­sues with Ceredi­gion Coun­cil, who, de­spite rep­re­sent­ing only 2% of the Welsh pop­u­la­tion, ac­counted for 33% of com­plaints.

Mr Ben­nett said: “Most peo­ple who use pub­lic ser­vices in Wales would pre­fer they don’t have to com­plain, that there’s some re­as­sur­ance in there that peo­ple re­ally are us­ing the les­sons learned to drive im­prove­ments in pub­lic ser­vices.

“The only lo­cal au­thor­ity we se­lected (to help be­cause of a high level of se­ri­ous com­plaints) was Ceredi­gion Coun­cil.

“At the time, Ceredi­gion only ac­counted for 2% of the Welsh pop­u­la­tion but made up 33% – a whole third – of all the up­held lo­cal gov­ern­ment com­plaints we re­ceived across Wales.

“Our im­prove­ment of­fi­cer has worked with that coun­cil over the past few years and, through a more col­lab­o­ra­tive ap­proach, we’ve seen a real im­prove­ment. In fact, I don’t think this year, so far, we’ve had a sin­gle up­held com­plaint about them, so I think there’s some real good prac­tice there.

“I even think there might be some les­sons that we could spread out and of­fer to other pub­lic ser­vice bod­ies.”

● Pub­lic Ser­vices Om­buds­man For Wales Nick Ben­nett

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