1. ITV Report

'Spiralling' number of health complaints to ombudsman

Credit: PA

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

The Ombudsman's Annual Report and Accounts for 2017/18 has revealed complaints against NHS bodies, including health boards, trusts, GPs and dentists, have increased by 7% on the previous year.

Complaints about Health Boards have risen by 11%.

Complaints about Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board have risen by 29% and Aneurin Bevan University Health Board has risen by 34%. The number of complaints about Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board fell by 3% but it still generated 186 complaints, the highest number of any health board in Wales.

Complaints received by the Ombudsman against NHS bodies (2017/18).
The Ombudsman has received less complaints about GPs and dentists. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Spiralling health complaints are a real concern and they now make up more than 40% of my office's total caseload.

Many healthcare complaints are complex, sensitive and significant, often involving harm or the death of a family member. They often take longer to investigate than other complaints due to the seriousness of the matters raised and the need for clinical advice.

When my office finds an injustice, we expect bodies to take on the learning from my investigations - only if they do this are we likely to stem the flow of complaints.

– Nick Bennett, Public Services Ombudsman for Wales

The Welsh Government says the number of complaints made in relation to the number of patients treated is "very small" - but says all complaints are taken "very seriously".

Investment our NHS is at record levels and 90% of respondents to the National Survey for Wales said they were satisfied with the care they received. The number of complaints made in relation to the number of patients treated is very small. However, we take all complaints very seriously and have a process in place for them to be thoroughly investigated in an open, honest and transparent way. We expect all NHS organisations in Wales to learn lessons from feedback they receive.

– Welsh Government spokesperson

Ellen James, from Haverfordwest, approached to the Ombudsman after her baby died. She raised multiple concerns during her pregnancy and when in labour at Glangwili General Hospital in Carmarthen but these "were dismissed by medical staff". The Ombudsman upheld her complaint.

Chris and Ellen James lost their son Callum shortly after he was born. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

We are sorry for the failings in care identified and we have written to Mrs A to apologise. We accept the recommendations the Ombudsman has proposed. Our staff have already undertaken many improvements to our service as we continue to strive to improve the care we offer.

– Steve Moore, Hywel Dda University Health Board's Chief Executive