Northern Ireland

Ombudsman: Dissatisfaction about handling of complaints

Tom Frawley
Image caption Tom Frawley said an ombudsman was needed more than every

About 40% of the complaints handled by the Northern Ireland Ombudsman are about health and social services, it has emerged.

A large number of those dealt with dissatisfaction over the handling of an original complaint, outgoing NI Ombudsman Tom Frawley has said.

Mr Frawley said methodologies employed by the health service were "not equal to the task".

He told the BBC that the whole approach to complaints needed to be addressed.

Speaking on the Good Morning Ulster programme, he said there was much improvement "but there is still progress to be made".

"We still have instances of people who are directly involved in the original complaint reviewing and investigating the complaint which is obviously inappropriate," Mr Frawley said.

'Very frustrating'

"Then there is on occasion a lack of willingness to be transparent and open about what happened.

"These are the sort of issues that people increasingly find very frustrating and then bring those matters to my office."

Mr Frawley said that "more than ever" there was a need for an assembly ombudsman and commissioner for complaints.

"I would say that, wouldn't I, but I think there is need for oversight and I think that the public does feel that it's not an even playing field," he said.

"Increasingly, the law is becoming inaccessible to ordinary people because of its cost and sometimes it's not a proportionate response to these sorts of issues anyway.

"So you need someone within that whole administration of justice system that's capable of looking in an inquisitorial way at these matters and giving a detailed examination and scrutiny to the way public services are performed."

In his final report to the assembly on Monday, Mr Frawley said complaints about maladministration in Northern Ireland's health and social care sector had increased by 22%, representing almost 40% of the total received by his office.