The Welsh Government is pushing for GP practices to ensure that Welsh-speaking staff are available to patients who need them and providing ongoing advice to surgeries to promote the Welsh language.
It has said it will complete a review of IT systems before the end of the year to ensure that GPs are logging patients’ preferences for consultations or communications in Welsh.
The details were outlined in a circular sent to GPs and other health professionals this month.
Welsh Government officials say they will engage with professional bodies such as the BMA over the next seven months to plan how Welsh language services can be delivered more effectively by doctors.
These actions are part of the joint Welsh Government and NHS Wales response to recommendations by the Welsh Language Commissioner Meri Huws to increase the use of Welsh in primary care settings. She made the recommendations in her report My Language, My Health published last June.
Health minister Mark Drakeford announced in December that the Government’s longer-term aim was to recruit more GPs who speak Welsh.
The circular issued last week says of the requirement to meet the needs of Welsh speakers: ‘GP clinical systems capture details of patients’ language preference, enabling information to be shared with other healthcare providers. We are undertaking a review of our e-Health and care strategy and this requirement (of meeting the needs of Welsh speakers) will be considered in that programme.’
Ms Huws’ report detailed how some Welsh-speaking patients find it more difficult to express themselves or be ‘open’ when they speak to GPs who speak only English.
It described in one section how a Welsh-speaking woman struggled to take a test for dementia in English.