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The Welsh Language is a necessity, not a nicety, in healthcare

Welsh Language Commissioner, Aled Roberts, will be heading a campaign this week to raise awareness of the need to further develop a bi-lingual workforce in the healthcare sector in Wales.
 
The Commissioner’s office places duties, called ‘standards’, on pubic organisations in Wales, making it compulsory for them to provide certain services through the medium of Welsh.  The latest organisations to be placed under these standards were the health sector, on the 30 May 2019. 
 
The Welsh Language Commissioner also wants to raise awareness of the difference it makes when patients are treated in their first language. For example, there have been cases of people scored wrongly when tested for dementia, that were unresponsive when spoken to in English after a major operation, or that found it hard to express their feelings when visiting their GP.
 
Welsh Language Commissioner Aled Roberts said, “The health sector are the latest organisations who are operating the Welsh Language standards and we expect to see a difference over the next few months. But we cannot emphasise enough the difference it makes to a patient to be able to speak their first language when unwell, and that speaking Welsh is a necessity, not an option, for many patients.”
 
“One of the standards set is that the health boards and trusts should have an up-to-date record of the language skills within their work force, but figures obtained by our office show that there is a stark difference between organisations – varying from one health board that knows the language skills of 95% of its staff, to another that only knows the language skills of 22% of its workforce. This means that they have no idea who can speak Welsh, which makes it very hard to ensure that Welsh speaking patents are cared for by Welsh speaking staff.”
 
Welsh skills range from being able to say basic greetings, to fully fluent but the Welsh Language Commissioner wants to encourage those that have lost their confidence speaking Welsh to try and re-gain the skill by following courses offered by the health boards.  “We have met many people that work in healthcare, that either resent that they didn’t get the opportunity to learn the language in school or that have lost confidence speaking the language since leaving Welsh medium education.  I am now calling on these people to contact the Welsh Language Officer within their organisation and ask for opportunities to learn or re-learn the language at work. 
 
“I would also like to see Welsh speaking children and young people encouraged to follow a career in the health service, where they are desperately needed.  We must plan for the future and ensure that we secure a Welsh speaking workforce that can answer the demand.  After all, the Welsh language is a necessity, not a nicety, when it comes to healthcare.”  
 

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