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Strategy to provide health services in Welsh empty words claim campaigners

25 Jul 2023 4 minute read
Picture by the Welsh Government

Siân Williams

Health Minister Eluned Morgan’s plan for providing services in Welsh is nothing more than empty words, according to Welsh language campaigners.

The Welsh Government’s five-year action plan for health services: ‘More than Just Words’ strategy, was published on 2 August 2022, but Cymdeithas yr Iaith claims there is no evidence that it is being implemented.

In a letter to the minister, Gwerfyl Roberts, Chair of Cymdeithas yr Iaith’s health and welfare group, claims: When discussing your vision for providing health and care services through the medium of Welsh, you recognised at that time that more needed to be available and that it needed to happen quicker.

“It now seems that these were in fact no more than just words as you failed to establish a new advisory board during 2022 to lead the plan, causing a serious delay to the work programme.”

“Such delays cause increasing concern for us, and complete despair for patients and service users across Wales who really need to have direct access to the best quality treatment and care that meets their language needs.”

Creating an advisory board was one of the first steps set out in the action plan, and Cymdeithas yr Iaith want to know when will the board be appointed, and what effect will the delay have on the rest of the timetable, particularly on patients.

In the letter, Cymdeithas yr Iaith also reminds Eluned Morgan that she has previously acknowledged that more needs to be done and quickly.

“It now seems that those were empty words as you have failed in your goal to establish a new advisory board during 2022 (resulting in) a terrible delay in the work programme. It’s been a year now since the launch and we are eagerly waiting for the first annual report …”

The letter ends with calls to explain why there’s been a delay and a request to publish the names of the chair and members of the new advisory board.

Action plan

The themes laid out in the five-year action plan include: culture and leadership; Welsh language planning and policies; supporting and developing Welsh language skills of the workforce and sharing best practice.

When unveiling the new strategy, the government said it was needed to ensure that everyone who wants to can receive health and social care services in the Welsh language.

Workforce planning, staff training, digital systems and changing the culture are key elements of the More than just words five-year action plan, Eluned Morgan said during its launch at the National Eisteddfod in Tregaron last August.

“When people are receiving or trying to access care, it is usually when they are at their most vulnerable, so being comfortable in their own language is important,” She said.

“Our research found that for many Welsh speakers, being able to access services in Welsh significantly improved their overall experience and, in many cases, improved their health and wellbeing outcomes.

“It also showed people often found it difficult to access services in Welsh and were reluctant to ask when Welsh language services were not offered.

“At the core of our strategy is the principle of the Active Offer. It places a responsibility on health and social care providers to offer services in Welsh, rather than on the patient or service user to have to request them.

“While progress has been made since our original plan was launched five years ago, we now need to offer more and faster to deliver that offer.”

In response to the Health Minister’s announcement, Gwenith Price, Deputy Welsh Language Commissioner said it was an important step forward: “Providing health care services in Welsh is crucial to ensuring respect and dignity for Welsh speakers.

“It’s more than a matter of language choice, it’s a core part of care and a clinical need for many.”

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