Steps to improve Health Board's language provision welcomed, but fundamental changes needed

Following an open forum to discuss the use of Welsh in health provision in Carmarthen Cymdeithas yr Iaith has welcomed steps to improve Welsh provision while maintaining that a change of mindset is needed for the long-term.

During the meeting, Enfys Williams, chief language officer with Hywel Dda Health Board, explained the steps the health board will take to improve services. These include language awareness sessions, distributing resources to encourage staff to start conversations in Welsh, supporting staff wanting to learn Welsh, and the intention to appoint a Welsh tutor to increase staff confidence in using the Welsh language.

Manon Elin, Chair of Cymdeithas' language rights group said:
"We are glad that the Health Board will support staff Welsh lessons financially, and has advertised more Welsh-essential posts recently. These are positive things in the short term. However, as patients are not usually in a position to ask for services in Welsh, it is important that the Welsh service is available and offered pro-actively, rather than it being the patient's responsibility to ask. For the Welsh language to be more than something marginal in an English language institution, fundamental changes are needed. We hope to continue to work with the Health Board to further develop their Welsh provision."

A discussion was led by experts in the field, including Awen Iorwerth of Cardiff University medical school, Dr Dilys Davies who has researched the importance of the Welsh language to patients when discussing health, and Assembly Member Dr Dai Lloyd. Patients, current and recently retired staff also shared their experiences.
During discussions on training for students, it was noted that some universities in England give greater priority to applicants who speak Welsh than Cardiff University medical school. Assembly Member and doctor, Dr Dai Lloyd, noted that when a patient's symptoms are describe in a mother-tongue, doctors can diagnose patients quicker and come to a more certain conclusion, as there are no communication problems.

Manon Elin added:
"We are aware that health services are under strain. Those who have had experience working in the field confirmed that learning or increasing confidence enough to use Welsh when working cannot easily be prioritised during the working day. That's why the training of health professionals is so important. There is an opportunity for the health board to work with education providers in order to ensure that medical courses are available in Welsh and that the language is a part of training for all those wishing to work in Wales. "