Welsh language health use inquiry by commissioner

An inquiry is to be held into the use of the Welsh language in the health and care sectors.

It will be the Welsh language commissioner's first inquiry since Meri Huws started the job in April.

The Welsh Language Society claimed there was a negative attitude to Welsh within the medical profession.

But one community health council head said that while sympathetic to the issues, there was a need for realism, and NHS recruitment was a problem.

Discussions are taking place at the National Eisteddfod in the Vale of Glamorgan to decide the main focus of the inquiry.

In May, the British Medical Association (BMA) said the use of the Welsh language should not be a priority when delivering healthcare.

The BMA said health money should not go into "promoting" the language, and targeting Welsh-speaking staff could hamper recruitment.

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Media captionAneurin Bevan CHC and the the Welsh Language Society debate the issue

Bethan Williams, chair of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (the Welsh Language Society), welcomed the inquiry.

She said, for example, that people with dementia could lose the ability to speak their second English language and revert to Welsh.

She said not being able to communicate in their chosen language can cause them and their families distress.

'Negative attitude'

"Within the medical profession we have had a negative attitude towards the Welsh language," she told BBC Radio Wales.

"We have had cases where staff have not only been telling other staff not to speak to each other in Welsh or patients in Welsh, but telling patients off for speaking Welsh to each other.

"That is worrying quite worrying and needs to change," she said.

Cathy O'Sullivan, chief officer of patient watchdog the Aneurin Bevan Community Health Council, said it was "right and reasonable" that patients could receive help and information in their chosen language.

But she said one of the "great difficulties facing the NHS right now is the lack of recruitment into Wales".

She added that people in general were "suffering through lack of service".

"While I am very sympathetic and I understand the issues and everyone should be supported to speak Welsh... there has to be a level of incremental development that is realistic to what we have got right now," she added.

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