The NHS has a serious shortage of mental health services available in Welsh, with most health boards employing a much lower percentage of Welsh-speaking staff than in the local population as a whole, according to a language group’s research.
Information released to Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg in freedom of information requests shows that Aneurin Bevan University Health Board had the lowest percentage of mental health staff being Welsh speakers at only 1.9%. In the Hywel Dda Health Board, which serves Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, and Pembrokeshire, only 16.7% could speak Welsh at an intermediate level or above – the percentage who speak Welsh in the local population is well over double that figure. Betsi Cadwaladr was the best performer, with 30% of staff in the mental health field being Welsh-speaking, a figure close to the percentage of speakers of the language across the region.
Cymdeithas has written to all Local Health Boards calling for better workforce planning and more training for the staff, in order to improve Welsh-language mental health services.
In the letter to the Boards, Manon Elin, Chair of Cymdeithas’ Rights group, said:
“We as a movement often receive complaints from our members about the lack of health services available in Welsh … This is particularly important with mental health matters since speaking and communicating is such a crucial part of the treatment and the recovery process. The patient needs to express their feelings properly in order to get a correct diagnosis. Communication problems can lead to misdiagnosis and misunderstanding. People use mental health services when they are at their most fragile, so it’s essential that they can communicate in the language they feel most comfortable speaking.
“It’s important that services are available in Welsh, and are offered to the patients pro-actively, rather than the patient being responsible for asking for them. Frequently users of mental health service are not in a position to insist on their rights to service in Welsh, and requesting a Welsh service can feel out of place in such a situation.”
Arddun Rhiannon, who lives near Caernarfon, and has been affected by the lack of Welsh language mental health services, said:
“The lack of mental health services for Welsh speakers is incredibly disappointing. It’s absolutely essential for us to train and attract more Welsh-speaking workers to this field because everyone should have the option to receive quality treatment in their first language – especially since clear communication is such a vital part of effective mental health services. If I had received help through the medium of Welsh, the experience would have been less frustrating, and of greater benefit to me in the long term. Speaking about your problems is difficult as it is, without being forced to do so in your second language.”
Matthew Pearce Head of Communications Hafal