Strengthening Welsh Language Services in Health and Social Care; Helen Birtwhistle Discusses the Importance of Language in Meeting Patient Care Needs with Dignity and Respect Monday, 5 August 2013 THEPROFESSIONALS

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), August 5, 2013 | Go to article overview

Strengthening Welsh Language Services in Health and Social Care; Helen Birtwhistle Discusses the Importance of Language in Meeting Patient Care Needs with Dignity and Respect Monday, 5 August 2013 THEPROFESSIONALS


Byline: Helen Birtwhistle

AS WALES celebrates its unique traditions and culture this week at the National Eisteddfod, we are reminded that we are a bilingual nation, and that we can be proud of our Welsh language heritage.

Language is a vital part of Wales' vibrant culture and identity.

It is also of huge importance in the way we seek and receive our public services.

Language can be particularly important in healthcare. We are often asking people for very personal information, and in many instances the person may feel vulnerable. Providing services to patients and service users that acknowledge their language needs is central to meeting their care requirements with respect and dignity.

There is an ongoing inquiry by the Welsh Language Commissioner into patients' experiences relating to use of the Welsh language in primary care - at the GP surgery, dentist, pharmacy and the opticians.

The NHS in Wales welcomes this work and is keen to support and contribute, especially as we are advocating a shift in health services from hospitals to local communities.

The report, expected in summer 2014, will make recommendations to improve people's experiences and identify opportunities for action.

NHS Wales has made some advances in addressing patient needs around language. In addition, "more than just words" is a Welsh Government commitment to strengthen Welsh language services in health, social services and social care. It has pinpointed four priority groups where Welsh language services are especially import-ant. These are children, older people, people with learning disabilities and people with mental health problems.

These are particularly vulnerable because their care and treatment may suffer when they are not communicated with in their own language.

Many older people in residential care settings discover that their sense of self reduces. It's essential to provide care that reflects a person's language and cultural background to respect their identity and maintain their dignity.

Older people whose first language is Welsh who suffer from dementia or have had a stroke may lose their second language and so a Welsh language service is an integral part of their assessment and treatment. …

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