A NORTH Wales health board was responsible for the largest number of complaints in NHS Wales last year, according to new figures.

The Public Services Ombudsman for Wales said there were a total of 186 complaints against Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board during the 2017/18 financial year.

While this represented a three per cent annual reduction in complaints for the organisation, which has been in special measures for more than three years, the number was still larger than those received by any other health body.

Ombudsman Nick Bennett has raised concerns following an overall increase in complaints against health boards of 11 per cent, with Aneurin Bevan University Health Board experiencing the biggest rise of 34 per cent.

He said: “Spiralling health complaints are a real concern and they now make up more than 40 per cent of my office’s total caseload.

“Many healthcare complaints are complex, sensitive and significant, often involving harm or the death of a family member.

"They often take longer to investigate than other complaints due to the seriousness of the matters raised and the need for clinical advice.”

Earlier this month, Health Secretary Vaughan Gething announced a £6.8m cash injection for the beleagured north Wales health board, which has been in the highest level of monitoring since June 2015.

He said funding was being put forward to try and deliver improvements for patients after the organisation previously admitted there was ‘considerable further work to be done’ to exit special measures.

In response to the complaint figures, Deborah Carter, associate director of quality assurance for Betsi Cadwaladr, said: “Complaints provide us with a valuable opportunity to learn and improve how we deliver our services.

“We know there is still more work to do to continue to reduce the number of complaints we receive, but we are pleased that the hard work and dedication of our staff to improve our services are reflected in the reduction in complaints received and upheld.”

Overall the Ombudsman's office received 2,253 complaints against all public services - two per cent fewer than the previous year.

He attributed the decrease to a 10 per cent reduction in complaints about local authorities, but revealed that complaints against councillors breaching their code of conduct increased by 14 per cent.

Assembly Members recently agreed to approve the principles of new legislation that would enable the Ombudsman to investigate private healthcare complaints where they involve a mix of public and private provision.

Mr Bennett added: “When my office finds an injustice, we expect bodies to take on the learning from my investigations – only if they do this are we likely to stem the flow of complaints.

“More generally, I’m pleased to see a small reduction in the total number of complaints across devolved public services in Wales, with a 10 per cent drop in complaints about local government.”