The Public Services Ombudsman for Wales has today published statistics on complaints handled by Health Boards and Local Authorities in Wales during 2022/23.
Complaints handled by Health Boards
Welsh Health Boards received nearly 19,000 complaints in 2022/23. This is the equivalent of about six complaints for every 1,000 residents of Wales. The Ombudsman uses this type of representation to better compare public services in Wales which vary greatly in size. Records show that complaint volumes have remained stable for health boards in general compared to the previous year.
Records show that the highest proportion of complaints (28 per cent) recorded by Health Boards were about the clinical treatment which people received, 19% were about appointments, and 16 per cent were about communication issues.
The data shows that about 75 per cent of complaints were closed within the target of 30 working days. This was about the same as last year, but varied greatly across the Health Boards.
Over 900 complaints relating to Health Boards were referred to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales in the year, which represents over 5 per cent of all complaints closed by these bodies in the same period.
The Ombudsman also closed over 900 complaints about Health Boards last year. Some of those complaints would have been referred to the office during the previous financial year.
The Public Services Ombudsman for Wales intervened in 30 per cent of those cases, by recommending Early Resolution, Voluntary Settlement, or upholding a complaint after an investigation. This is broadly consistent with previous years.
Early Resolution: In some cases, the Ombudsman may take the view that there is action that the organisation being complained about could take quickly to resolve a complaint. In these cases, they will contact the organisation involved to explain what they think might be done and seek its agreement to take that forward.
Complaints handled by Local Authorities
The Ombudsman is also publishing information about Local Authority complaints today – with more than 15,500 complaints being logged by Local Authorities in Wales during the 2022/23 year, the equivalent of five complaints for every 1,000 residents. Records show that this has increased slightly since the previous year, and is much higher than when the Ombudsman launched the Complaints Standards work in 2019/20.
Similar to the Health Boards, about 75 per cent of complaints were handled within the target time – although Local Authorities use a shorter target of 20 working days. This performance is similar to previous years.
Records show that about 30 per cent of complaints recorded by Local Authorities were about waste and refuse – a theme continuing from previous years – 19 per cent were about housing, an increase from last year, and 14 per cent were about social services.
Around 40 per cent of all complaints were upheld by Local Authorities, broadly the same as last year.
Over 1,000 complaints relating to Local Authorities were referred to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales in the year, which represents about 7 per cent of all complaints closed by these organisations in the same period – a reduction, in terms of the proportion, compared to the previous year.
PSOW closed nearly 1,100 complaints about Local Authorities in 2022/23. Some of those complaints would have been referred to the office during the previous financial year.
PSOW intervened in 13 per cent of those cases, by recommending Early Resolution, Voluntary Settlement, or upholding a complaint after an investigation.
Michelle Morris, the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales said:
“We’re pleased to continue our publication of complaints data for public services in Wales – our Complaints Standards Authority plays an important part of promoting transparency on complaints and publishing this data helps us achieve that. When looking at this data, alongside the information from our own casework, we begin to learn more about how well public bodies manage complaints, and we can target our improvement work accordingly."
Matthew Harris, PSOW’s Head of Complaints Standards, said:
“Our data publication is now in it’s second year, and we want this to be an important source of information for everyone in Wales to understand how their local services perform. We’ve been working with public bodies across Wales since 2019 to drive up standards in their complaint handling, and we’ve provided more than 400 free training sessions in that time.
Tentatively, we can see some of the benefits of that work in these statistics – the proportion of Local Authority complaints coming to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales is down, even though the Local Authorities themselves are logging more complaints than ever. It’s important that public services across Wales continue to use complaints as an opportunity to improve, and use their data to help achieve that."