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Health experts demand Welsh services to protect ‘most vulnerable’

27 Nov 2017 3 minute read
Doctor shaking hands


A group of health professionals have called for clear rights for patients to receive services in Welsh from primary care providers like GPs and pharmacists in an open letter to the Welsh Government.

The letter to Minister Eluned Morgan, signed by over thirty health practitioners, comes as officials prepare to publish language duties in the health system ahead of a vote in the Assembly in the next few weeks.

“This is particularly important as we are talking about some of the most vulnerable people in our society, at a time in their life when communicating in Welsh is very important for their health and for ensuring the best possible treatment,” the letter says.

The Government is expected to publish the regulations, known as the Welsh Language Standards, before Christmas.

The draft regulations, which were consulted on last year, excluded primary care services. That meant that there would be no legal rights for people to receive services in the Welsh language from GPs, dentists, opticians or pharmacists under the Government’s original proposals.

That was despite a clear recommendation from the Welsh Language Commissioner, following detailed research, that they should be included.

In response to the letter, the Welsh Government said that they were working with those that provide health and social services to ensure that they voluntarily provide a Welsh language service, particularly for the aged and small children.


The letter, which has been signed by GPs, pharmacists, opticians and other health workers, says that it is important that “front-line service providers” are not exempted from the proposed Standards.

“We are concerned that your draft regulations do not guarantee Welsh language rights for the public in their interactions with primary care providers in the health service,” they say.

“As you know, these services are the public’s main point of contact with the health service, so it is crucial that patients are able to access primary care services in Welsh throughout the country.

“We believe therefore that primary care service providers must be subject to the Welsh language Standards under the same statutory framework as the health boards and other health bodies.

“Steps must be taken to ensure that proposed legislation and subordinate legislation reflect the need to promote the Welsh language in primary care services.

“A significant body of international research supports such an approach.

“We, therefore, urge you to amend the draft regulations so that people have robust rights in these crucial areas.”

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5 years ago

It’s disgusting that primary care services should even have been considered for exemption from providing services in Cymraeg. We all know that voluntarism doesn’t work, and it’s not as if the current requirements are onerus, quite the opposite, they don’t go far enough in my opinion. In general, the Welsh Assembly Government is indifferent to the extension of the provision of services provided through Cymraeg, which does not bode well for their policy of achieving a million speakers of Cymraeg by 2050. We’re talking about the national language here, which should be integral to all considerations of government policy. .… Read more »

5 years ago
Reply to  sibrydionmawr

I have been fortunate to have been reasonably fluent in Welsh and English throughout my life. Given the mess that prevails in the NHS due to chronic underfunding, poor resource management, and a range of self inflicted damage by users ( booze, fags, diet etc etc ) I have tended to accept that getting the service straightened out first and give the language its rightful place after was the way to go about it. However it’s now becoming quite apparent that acceptance of that order of priorities suggests we could wait for ever. The NHS continues to deteriorate under the… Read more »

5 years ago
Reply to  Dafis

I think it’t always been a case where speakers of Cymraeg are somewhat over a barrel when it comes to the provision of vital services, as for the past few generations the vast majority of Cymraeg speakers also speak English at least tolerably well. However, it’s also be a ruse used to add delay after delay to respecting the rights of Cymraeg speakers, as it’s easy to find other priorities, so the linguistic needs of Cymraeg speakers get kicked into the long grass. As you point out, those with the greatest need for services in Cymraeg are those who are… Read more »

5 years ago

This is something that means a lot to me personally and should go beyond political gesturing and politicking. It is a serious issue. I know from first hand experience that there are people out there with conditions like Alzheimer’s where communication becomes increasingly difficult and distressing, people who absolutely need the support of medical professionals and support workers who can communicate in Welsh.

I’m amazed that we set this as such a low priority – it displays a real lack of humanity, from the very services and professions we expect the most from in these tragic situations.

5 years ago

I want to post an unrelated comment here, just a a pause for thought really and because I’m not really academically qualified to write an article on here, but I wanted to map the demise of the language in Wales with the growth of another phenomena that swept across the land that no-one ever seems to touch on. The demise of the language to me seems to correlate nicely with the growth of the free time that people gained late in the industrial revolution. The Butlins and bingo culture if you like. To me this had a far greater impact… Read more »

5 years ago
Reply to  Trailorboy

you are referring to what is commonly regarded as Anglo American “pop” culture or part of it, a culture that evolved rapidly once young people in particular had some disposable income and “leisure time”. There were other corrosive factors at work earlier, but this wave is a post WW2, probably post mid 50’s phenomenon and it’s grown as those who enjoyed it way back say in the 60’s have to some extent stayed with it especially as it is unavoidable unless you use TV and other media sparingly. Hard to tell these days whether media responds to user demand or… Read more »

5 years ago

Just read what Dr Sally Baker says on her own blog or her contributions on Jac o’the North

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