Welsh language row breaks out over mums having to travel to England for specialist support
Dale Spridgeon, local democracy reporter
A language row has broken out over Welsh mums having to travel to England to access specialist mother and baby unit mental health services.
It comes amid claims that there is “not enough demand” to justify a standalone unit in North Wales.
The Welsh Government says it has been working with NHS England to develop a joint unit in north west England.
An eight-bedded mother and baby unit at the Countess of Chester Hospital is expected to welcome its first mothers and babies in late Spring to early Summer 2024.
Currently Welsh patients are offered admission to inpatient units in Manchester, Chorley, Birmingham and Nottingham, as well as the Uned Gobaith MBU near Swansea.
The issue has raised concerns that first language Welsh speakers will be unable to communicate in their native tongue, when at their most vulnerable.
After childbirth, some women experience crises such as post natal depression or psychosis.
Arfon MS Sian Gwenllian slammed the decision, saying: “The new mother and baby unit opening in 2024 will provide specialist support to mothers experiencing mental health problems, and is designed to support mothers across the north of Wales – but it will be in England.
“Chester is a long way from Amlwch.
“This is a poor decision. I’m very disappointed that the unit will not be based in the Betsi Cadwaladr region.
“Why not base the eight bed unit more central to North Wales, have it the other way round so patients from England can come here?
“That would ensure Welsh language needs of Welsh patients are met, English is also spoken here, our services are bilingual.”
Examples of how the Welsh language will be embedded into the fabric of the proposed MBU, include providing bilingual signage, inviting Welsh speaking applicants to apply for all posts and making recruitment information available bilingually.
Access to a Welsh language line 24 hours a day, seven days a week, developing nursery nurse-led activities in both languages and Welsh imagery in decor, are also included.
The MS said that was “superficial” and “lip service”.
She said: “What women want in dire situations is to communicate in their first language with health professionals, it is crucial.
“We need a unit in North Wales with an emphasis on people having Welsh language skills.”
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We are committed to ensuring mother and baby unit provision across Wales.
“A six bed unit is currently operating in South Wales.
“There is insufficient demand for a standalone service in North Wales, so we have been working with NHS England to develop a joint unit in north west England.
“We are also investing to improve support in community perinatal mental health teams.”
Dr Alberto Salmoiraghi, medical director for BCUHB’s Mental Health and Learning Disabilities Division, said: “Best practice guidance from the Royal College of Psychiatrists suggests that in order to ensure a sustainable, high quality service, mother and baby units should provide between six and eight beds.
“Modelling has shown that just two ringfenced inpatient beds are required to serve the population of North Wales.
“As there is not enough demand to justify a standalone unit in North Wales, we have worked collaboratively with NHS partners in England to find a solution which better meets the needs of mothers in North Wales and those in the north west of England.
“Two of these eight beds will be ringfenced for women from North Wales, ensuring access to specialist inpatient care much closer to home than is currently the case.
“We are determined to ensure that this new unit provides the very best care for mothers across the region.”
Mrs Gwenllian added: “I am not convinced there is no demand in North Wales.”
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The Welsh Govt should be congratulated for this project in which they are addressing the needs of women in North Wales. Sian Gwenillan is talking utter nonsense as usual
Just because someone can speak English doesn’t mean they should have to do so. Especially when in such a vulnerable and unhappy condition. It is not unreasonable to expect to have critical services delivered in Welsh; this is situation demonstates that in Spades.
My mother passed away in a large hospital in south Wales. She was delirious and only spoke Welsh at the end. There was no-one on the ward who spoke Welsh.
As Chester is only a stone’s throw over the border how many of the staff there travel in from Cymru and are bi-lingual I wonder?
Fair comment but does not guarantee a service in Welsh if that’s what the mothers want or need. This entire MBU issue is a farce anyway. Labour were in power, with their little helpers possibly, back in 2013 when Cardiff NHS Trust kyboshed the existing MBU because the “experts” in the Bay wouldn’t create sufficient funding to enable the Trust to provide service which extended over the Trusts in South and Mid Wales. Now they have relaunched MBU as a bright new idea and claiming credit for being so bloody clever. More evidence that Bay Bubble geniuses can’t tell their… Read more »
That guarantee could be provided if there was a will to create a small cadre of dedicated staff for the purpose hd.
I’ve spent enough time on the wards of YG to have witnessed the importance of first language communication for the elderly…
That Labour would struggle to make the necessary synaptic connections to approximate joined-up thinking while applying common sense to their deliberations is a moot point…
My mother in law was in a nursing home in Shrewsbury there was a Welsh lady in there who had lived in Shrewsbury 50 years and I was visiting one day and my mother in law asked me if I could help the staff out it was that Welsh lady she kept telling the carer’s that she could not speak English
Providing Welsh language services is only lip service from our politicians. They would rather the language disappears to lessen the burden and make their lives easier.
Yep, Many of the politicians in Cardiff are virtually Trojan Horses. They care little for Wales, its Language or it’s future
Joint unit? And the integration of Wales into a Greater England has begun.
Mr England feeling he wants to beat down and control Mr Wales as he always has done. Insecure power hungry England. We are not England and never will be.
No we are not…Unfortunately there are plenty of Cymric people, oh wait, I mean Welsh people, who are totally fine with it.