Cwm Taf health board's care complaint delay criticised
A health board which took more than three years to handle a complaint has been criticised by an ombudsman.
A woman, referred to as Mrs D, died at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital in Llantrisant a day after being admitted in November 2012.
The public services ombudsman for Wales found Cwm Taf health board took too long to investigate her son's complaint and said there was a "lack of transparency" in its response.
The health board has apologised.
A report by the ombudsman said Mrs D was "acutely unwell" when she was admitted to the hospital's A&E department on 9 November.
It said she had a reported history of respiratory failure, infection, low blood pressure and impaired kidney function.
Mrs D had at least two medical reviews the following day but her condition deteriorated and she died later that afternoon.
The health board accepted there had been a breach in its duty of care and said it would investigate but her son, known as Mr D, did not hear anything further for nearly two years.
He was later told the complaint had been misplaced in a "culling exercise".
The ombudsman, Nick Bennett, said he was prompted to investigate after her son had still not received a response by September 2015.
As well as the "severe delay" in responding to Mr D's concerns, the ombudsman found he was not offered the expert clinical and legal advice he was entitled to.
Mr Bennett has made a number of recommendations, including that the health board should pay Mr D £2,000 "for the distress".
He said the board had made a "series of failings" including failing to inform the complainant of their rights under Welsh Government legislation.
Mr Bennett said he received more than 1,000 health complaints every year - double the amount 10 years ago - and all health boards needed to improve how they handled complaints.
"Nobody should have to wait three years to receive a response to a health complaint but certainly not when they have lost a loved one.
"This was at best, a lack of transparency and at worst, an attempt by the health board to mislead, potentially jeopardising patients' faith in the Putting Things Right process.
"We need to move beyond this fear and blame culture and use the lessons from complaints to drive improvements to public services in Wales."
He added that health boards "must listen to the voice of patients".
The health board said it accepted the ombudsman's findings.
Cwm Taf chief executive Allison Williams said: "We reiterate our sincere apologies to the family for the failings identified within the report.
"We have already taken a number of actions to improve and strengthen our complaints processes and services and further work will continue in order to address the report's recommendations."