A complaint was made by the sister of (anonymised) Mr X about the length of time he had waited for diagnostic and investigative tests for his congenital heart defect (ACHD), which resulted in a prolonged wait for necessary surgery.

Miss X also complained that the Health
Board failed to properly advise her on concerning symptoms to look out for which would have indicated a serious deterioration in Mr X’s condition. Sadly, Mr X died before the surgery took place.

The Ombudsman found that:

  • The Health Board failed to make Mr and Miss X aware of worrying symptoms which, if she had been aware, would have led Miss X to seek urgent medical assistance for
    her brother in the few days leading up to his death
  • Whilst it is usual for patients to only be accepted for surgery once all test results are available and Mr X was appropriately prioritised for treatment, he still waited nearly
    twice the recommended time for surgery
  • There had been previous ‘near misses’ in terms of patients awaiting this type of
    surgery which should have prompted the Health Board to ensure that every possible
    action was taken to minimise the risk of harm to ACHD patients
  • There was an apparent lack of urgency for treatment for ACHD patients within the
    Health Board as a whole

Nick Bennett, Public Services Ombudsman for Wales, said:

“On the balance of probabilities, had Mr X received treatment earlier, it would have saved his life. The Welsh Government Referral to Treatment (RTT) target is 26 weeks. It is completely unacceptable that he waited nearly twice this time.

“I have made several recommendations including that the Health Board ensure Cardiology clinicians provide appropriate advice to ACHD patients so that they are aware of life threatening
symptoms to look out for.

“I am pleased that the Health Board has agreed to my recommendations and I welcome steps that it is taking to address waiting times for patients with ACHD; however it is sadly too late for Mr X to benefit from any such improvements.”