Belfast Telegraph

More complaints to watchdog about health and social care than any other public services

Adrian Rutherford

By Adrian Rutherford

Almost half of complaints made to a public services watchdog in Northern Ireland were linked to health and social care.

They included issues around delays, misdiagnosis and poor communication.

The details emerge in a new report which reveals that a total of 762 complaints were raised with the Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman during 2018/19 - up 15% on the previous year.

Complaints in 2018/19 include:

• 40% about health and social care matters;

• 19% about government departments and agencies;

• 12% about education;

• 10% about local councils;

• 10% about housing.

As in previous years, most complaints related to health and social care issues, accounting for 310 of the 762 total.

Of these, 242 were made to health and social care trusts, 36 to health service providers such as GPs and dentists, and 12 to care homes and private nursing.

Complaints included delays in care and treatment, misdiagnosis, poor communication with patients and their families and complaints about eligibility for continuing healthcare.

Examples of complaints about local councils include concerns around planning decisions taken by councils, enforcement of planning breaches and issues relating to tendering for local government projects.

Complaints about education related to the handling of allegations of bullying and child protection.

In her final annual report before leaving office, Ombudsman Marie Anderson reflected on the changes since the passing of the Public Services Ombudsman Act (Northern Ireland) 2016.

These include making it easier for people to complain to the Ombudsman and an expansion in remit to allow for the investigation of complaints across the whole of the education sector in Northern Ireland.

"As a result of the progress made over three years, I am proud to say Northern Ireland is now able to boast the existence of a modern, forward-thinking Ombudsman's office capable of investigating complaints about public services," she said.

Reflecting on the changes to complaints handling, Ms Anderson noted notable improvements in this area have been achieved in bodies such as the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.

Ms Anderson is leaving to become the new Police Ombudsman. She takes over from Dr Michael Maguire after he completes his seven-year tenure this month.

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