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GP practices set to be exempt from Welsh language requirement

The Welsh Government has proposed to exempt GP practices from a requirement to provide health services in Welsh.

It has launched a public consultation, which runs until October, on the proposals which say that making it a direct GP provider responsibility would cause bureaucracy that cannot be justified.

Instead, it suggests to put the onus on health boards by introducing a set of new standards.

The consultation document says: ‘In our opinion, this approach would be excessively bureaucratic requiring the Commissioner to issue compliance notices to each individual contracted provider and regulate each contracted provider. We don’t believe that the bureaucracy involved in this approach is justified or that it would achieve  the anticipated outcomes of the measure.’

It added: ‘Another significant factor in our consideration was the capacity within individual primary care providers to be able to offer Welsh language services to the same extent as the health boards and the trusts,and how they would be able to comply with standards in practice.’

But the suggestion, which comes after Welsh Government said it wanted to expand access to Welsh-speaking GP services, was criticised by Welsh language campaigners, writes the Daily Post.

The Welsh Language Society told the paper that the proposals had ’loopholes of massive importance to the Welsh language’ because ‘there wouldn’t be any rights for the public to interact in Welsh with their local surgery, which is the main point of contact with the health service in many cases’.

A spokesperson for the society said: ‘There are countless complaints about the lack of basic Welsh language services in primary care, from a lack of reception services and a lack of Welsh-speaking staff to a lack of Welsh language signs and websites.

‘People use the health service when they are at their most vulnerable, so it’s vital they can communicate in the language they feel most comfortable speaking.’