The Ombudsman, Nick Bennett, called for stronger leadership to “turn the curve” of complaints and said new Assembly legislation for his office was needed to improve public services in Wales.

The Ombudsman’s 2015/16 annual report showed that of the 798 health body complaints, local health boards and NHS trust accounted for 661 of them.

Complaints against Welsh NHS bodies have now increased by more than 50% over the past five years.

Last year the Ombudsman assigned Improvement officers to five of Wales’ Health Boards – Abertawe Bro Morgannwg, Aneurin Bevan, Betsi Cadwaladr, Cardiff and Vale and Hywel Dda University Health Boards, placing a greater emphasis on best practice and corporate cultural development.

Overall, and for only the second time in 10 years, there was a fall in the complaints received about public service providers – down 4% compared to 2014/15.

Nick Bennett, Public Services Ombudsman for Wales said:

“The upward trend in NHS complaints is a real concern and leadership is needed to empower frontline staff so they can respond to the needs of patients across Wales.

“With an ageing population and continued austerity, the demands on the NHS have never been so great but it’s crucial we use all the levers at our disposal to improve services.

“I’m hopeful that the work currently underway by my office’s new cadre of
improvement officers will make a difference, but I do believe fresh legislation is needed to help end cycles of poor service delivery.

“A new Public Services Ombudsman Bill would give my office powers to drive
forward quality complaint-handling and data collection, not just across NHS bodies, but all public services in Wales, which would lead to spotting issues faster and
enabling public bodies to act at an earlier stage.

“Scrutiny is one of the key drivers of public service improvement and I’m keen to ensure we give Welsh patients a voice to drive up standards.”