Sunday, February 05, 2006

Waste of Ratepayers Money

I query the wisdom of sending four of our Councillors to a Sister Cities conference in Washington in July of this year. In my view such trips bring little or no direct benefit to the ratepayers of this Borough. While the links we established with Virginia Beach did result in a few low-key community exchanges - in addition to a number of official trips by Councillors- that link now appears to have fizzled out. This is after 10 years of traveling backwards and forwards at the ratepayer’s expense. There was a suggestion that a party of five Councillors might travel to Star City in Arkansas (anyone ever heard tell of it?) to explore establishing a further Sister City link. Fortunately common sense has prevailed and that suggestion has now been dropped.

I want to make it clear that I do not object to the very occasional trip abroad to raise the profile of the Borough - and that would normally be undertaken by the current Mayor. Neither would I object to well-organised schemes, which would lead to, genuine broadly based community exchanges between two areas with a common interest. Nor do I object to exchanges which would benefit our economy. Our efforts to achieve any to this to date have been less than completely successful and have largely consisted of exchange trips by Councillors

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Complaints Committee Report

As a non-executive Director with the Ulster Community & Hospitals Trust and as Chair of the Complaints Committee. The following is an extract from the Annual Complaints Report which I presented at the January meeting of the Board of the Ulster Community & Hospitals Trust.

In presenting my report for 2004/5, I informed The Trust that there were 203 formal complaints which was a 23% reduction on last year’s figures. This figure must be set against the fact the services are provided to some 60,000 in patients and day cases and over 140,000 out patients. As well, 85,000 accident & emergency attendances took place. There were in excess of ¾ of a million contacts were made within the community. Although the complaint numbers are low, the Trust is in no way trivializing this and works consistently to keep these figures to a minimum.

Suggestions, comments, complaints and indeed the many thanks received from clients are welcome as they provide a necessary vehicle for improvements to be made. I think we all very much appreciate the fact that over 6000 letters of appreciation were received during the past year.

All complaints are acknowledged within 2 days and as with all good business practices the Trust strive to investigate and respond to complaints within the target of 20 working days. 72% of cases were dealt with in the time scale set. However the complexity of some complaints made that time scale not always possible.

Should someone feel unhappy with the outcome to their complaint, it is standard procedure that they will be offered an appointment to meet and discuss their problem. Of the 26% of complaints last year almost half agreed to meet while the remainder preferred a further written reply. The Trust is working closely with users to develop the complaints procedure and have developed a new leaflet which has been translated into 5 other languages.

I would wish to pay tribute to the staff whose efforts have enabled the Trust to achieve the exacting targets placed upon them. I am pleased that during the past year there have been a number of service improvements put into place indeed they highlight the ongoing benefits of an effective, listening, responding and caring service.