Health board receives 3,000 complaints in the last 12 months
Rhiannon James, local democracy reporter
Aneurin Bevan University Health Board (ABUHB) has received over 3,000 complaints in the space of a year.
A Freedom of Information request has revealed that between July 2021 and June 2022, the health board received 3,300 complaints – 430 of which received a delayed response.
The health board – which covers Caerphilly, Blaenau Gwent, Monmouthshire, Newport and Torfaen – aims to respond to complaints within 30 days. Currently, there are 12 members of staff employed by the health board, whose sole responsibility is to deal with complaints.
Additionally, in the past year, the Ombudsman opened 32 new investigations into complaints against the health board.
Caerphilly councillor Kevin Etheridge has written to the Welsh Government and is calling for action to be taken so that all complaints are prioritised.
The Independent councillor for Blackwood said: “I believe there needs to be an investigation into why there is such a large number of complaints, and what measures are in place in this regard.
“Why have 430 complaints exceeded the timescale? What are the particular areas of concern for patients? It’s all very well having a policy ‘putting things right’ but if this is not adhered to, the procedures and policy should be changed.”
The health board has now apologised to those who haven’t received a response within its usual timescale.
A spokeswoman from ABUHB said: “We are always open to receiving concerns from our patients and members of the public so that we can learn, improve our services, and offer the highest standards of care to our patients.
“Although we have 12 members of staff who are dedicated to receiving and responding to concerns, at any one time there are many more staff across the Health Board who contribute to the process through investigations into issues raised.
“We would like to apologise to anyone who has not received a response from the Health Board within our usual timescale. The well-publicised operational pressures the NHS faces across the UK have had an impact on the availability of clinicians and staff to carry out investigations, which has resulted in some responses to concerns being delayed.”
Wales’ Health Minister, Eluned Morgan, responded to Cllr Etheridge’s letter. She said: “I expect all health bodies to encourage patients and their families to share their experiences, including their concerns and complaints.
“The 2014 Evans review into the NHS Wales complaints process stressed the need for complaints to be seen as a gift, to be used to learn and improve services. This has never been more important than during the coronavirus pandemic which has seen vast changes in the way services have been provided.
“The NHS needs to understand whether these changes are working for their patients and one way of doing so is by investigating and learning from complaints.
“The pandemic initially saw a decrease in the number of patient complaints followed by an increase. As the NHS has started to open up and more people are receiving and waiting for treatment it is only natural to see a rise in the number of complaints.”
Mrs Morgan continued: “Health bodies are reporting that the complaints raised tend to be more complex in nature and will take longer to investigate.
“NHS staff are still under enormous pressure with high absence rates and workloads which can impact on the care and treatment people receive.
“However, it is important to remember that every year significant numbers of people receive high quality care. The number of complaints made in relation to the number of patients treated is very small.”
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.