Welsh language gains favour
27 November 2012
The BMA has welcomed moves to strengthen use of the Welsh language in the NHS, but has warned against diverting money away from frontline services.
BMA Welsh secretary Richard Lewis said the Welsh government’s new strategy, More Than Just Words, should not be seen to exclude people who did not speak Welsh and that it not be a barrier for people wanting to work in Wales.
He said: ‘We have had a number of constructive meetings with the Welsh language commissioner and discussions with our Welsh-speaking and non-Welsh-speaking members.
‘The BMA is fully supportive of the development of the Welsh language and fully appreciates its importance to patients who want to use [it] within healthcare.
‘The way in which the Welsh language is supported should be one that does not give out a message of exclusion for those who come to Wales and must be seen as a positive and not a negative. We don’t want to give the impression that if you don’t speak Welsh, it could be a barrier to come and work in Wales.
‘We need to ensure the promotion of the Welsh language doesn’t undermine our ability to recruit people to Wales.’
Dr Lewis also said a number of simple measures could be introduced, such as staff badges to identify Welsh speakers, which would cost very little.
He said: ‘We also recognise the current economic climate and, while we fully appreciate the importance of the Welsh language to patients and many of our members, we need to reflect very carefully on how we use [the health service’s] resources. There are lots of things that have no or little cost that we could be doing now.
‘Where we need to be careful is not diverting money from frontline services inappropriately. We have to get the balance right.’
The strategy incorporates three-year action plans for the NHS and social services, starting in April 2013.
One of its key components is the ‘active offer’ so the onus is on the health service to let the patient know Welsh language care is available, rather than on the patient to ask for it.
It also says:
- IT systems are needed to record the language skills of NHS staff
- The further and higher education sectors need to include the linguistic dimension as part of their education and training courses in health
- Professional bodies and education and training providers need to help tackle the shortage of Welsh speakers.
Launching the new strategy last week, Welsh health and social services minister Lesley Griffiths said: ‘We want to make sure users and their families feel that they are able to use Welsh when being assessed and receiving treatment or care. We all feel more comfortable discussing personal health and emotional matters in our first language.’