North East Wales

Doctor 'interfered' with patient's right to speak Welsh

Glan Clwyd Hospital Image copyright Eirian Evans
Image caption The incident happened at Glan Clwyd Hospital in Denbighshire

A doctor who asked a mother and daughter to stop speaking Welsh in an emergency consultation ignored their right to speak the language, the Welsh Language Commissioner has ruled.

The doctor told Dorothy Williams, from the Conwy Valley, that he took it "as a personal offence".

Commissioner Meri Huws said it set a precedent for all health boards and she would "keep an eye on the situation".

Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board has accepted the ruling.

Mrs Williams, from Dolwyddelan, said she was "very relieved" at the decision.

She told BBC Radio Cymru she hoped the health board had "learned lessons, and do what they say... time will tell".

Mrs Williams, reported the incident at Glan Clwyd Hospital, Denbighshire, at the start of May.

In her submission, she said: "My child started speaking to me in Welsh, as it is [the child's] first language. I responded in Welsh and it was clear that the doctor wasn't pleased.

"[The doctor] told us, 'I know you are Welsh but please stop talking in Welsh as I am taking it as a personal offence'."

The health board said the doctor was so concerned about the patient's safety in a clinically urgent situation that they asked her to stop speaking Welsh.

"[The doctor] took this as a personal offence because unless [the doctor] was able to communicate with [the child] directly, [the doctor] would be unable to give [the child] the urgent help [that the child] needed," the board explained.

The doctor apologised at the time and had realised that the choice of words "was clumsy and could cause offence". The family also had a written apology.

'Real message'

Image caption Meri Huws said there was a "challenge" for the health board to provide training

Commissioner Ms Huws said the doctor had sought to prevent the pair from communicating in Welsh and there was no legal or medical justification for it.

"That's been accepted by the health board in its statement that this situation is not acceptable or reasonable for the parent or child," she said.

"They as health service providers need to be planning and securing it where that communication can occur through the medium of Welsh."

Betsi Cadwaladr health board said it had already taken action on the matter.

"We recognise and fully accept that on this occasion there was interference by the doctor with the patient's freedom to use the Welsh language," a spokesperson said.

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