More than a third (40%) of formal complaints received by Wales’ seven health boards between 2016 and 2017 were not handled within NHS Wales’ standard 30-day target.
Writing to Welsh Conservatives, Vaughan Gething AM - the Welsh Government’s Cabinet Health Secretary – confirmed that health boards received a combined 5,861 complaints over a 12-month period, just 2,393 of which were dealt with on target.
On average nearly half (45%) of complaints received by health boards were not dealt with within 30 days.
Among them, Cwm Taf recorded the worst response rate with 74.5% of complaints not dealt with in 30 working days, while Aneurin Bevan recorded the highest number (482) of complaints not meeting target.
Abertawe Bro Morgannwg received the most complaints (1,249) of which 38% (478) were handled within deadline.
The Public Service Ombudsman for Wales’s annual report recently found that the number of health-related complaints in Wales have seen an eight per cent year-on-year rise.
Angela Burns AM, Welsh Conservative Shadow Health Secretary, said:
“It’s important to acknowledge the significant pressures the Welsh NHS is currently under, after enduring nearly two decades of underfunding and mismanagement at the hands of successive Labour administrations.
“Equally vital is that when concerns over failings of care are formally raised that the Welsh NHS acts in a timely fashion so that things can be put right as quickly as possible.
“It’s clear from the data that healthcare remains a postcode lottery and that far too many complaints are not being handled quickly enough.
“We need clear and inviolable legislation so that patients can expect their concerns to be dealt with within a statutory time-frame, or we risk service users losing all confidence in the system.”
Welsh Conservative Janet Finch-Saunders AM, whose Written Assembly Question (see Notes to Editors) to the Welsh Government yielded the complaints data, said:
“When care does not meet the high standards patients deserve its important the NHS holds its hands up and makes sure action is taken to address any shortcomings.
“Stronger mechanisms of accountability are needed to ensure that health boards are penalised when they do not respond to the concerns of its users in a manner which befits the values of the NHS.
“That is why the Welsh Government should be strengthening the patient voice, not seeking to weaken it.
“In its plans to scrap Community Health Councils, Labour ministers will damage irreparably public service accountability. This must at all costs be resisted.”