Welsh NHS complaints have doubled in a decade
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