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Use of Welsh language speaks volumes for patient care

Image shows a woman standing next to a wall

A Swansea Bay nurse is helping vulnerable Welsh-speaking patients communicate more effectively about their care by talking to them in their mother tongue – and is encouraging more staff to follow suit.

Eleri Lloyd Ash works as part of the health board’s Specialist Palliative Care Team, giving essential care to patients who have a life-shortening illness.

Image shows a woman standing next to a sign Welsh is her first language, so Eleri knows just how important it is for patients, along with their family and friends, to have the option of discussing their condition and treatment in their native tongue. One case last year really summed up what a difference it can make.

She explained: “We had an elderly patient who was referred to our service following a fall. He had rectal cancer and vascular dementia, and following a mental capacity assessment in English he was identified as not having the capacity to decide his place of care on discharge.

PICTURED: Eleri Lloyd Ash uses the Welsh language to speak to patients around matters of symptom control, psychological, spiritual and social needs and care at end of life.

"However, after looking at his name and address I guessed he may speak Welsh. He was pretty agitated, but after greeting him in Welsh he instantly calmed down and we spoke fluently in Welsh which helped him decide where he would have his care after discharge."

Clinical Nurse Specialist Eleri regularly offers to speak in Welsh to ensure patients and their relatives or carers are communicating in their desired language.

Eleri said: “Speaking Welsh with patients is something I’ve done from the very start of my career.

“I spent eight years in the 1990s working in elderly care, and frequently spoke Welsh with those patients and their families explaining care, during care and whilst planning for patient discharge.

“It was the same when I became part of the team at Ty Olwen in 1998. The service has developed a lot since then, but I have continued to incorporate Welsh as a social language and as a working language in my assessments with the patients about their needs. 

“I encourage all other professionals to speak Welsh, when possible, with their patients as it can make a real difference to their care. The value of this cannot be underestimated.”

Eleri has used names, addresses and her own instinct to work out whether patients coming under her care can speak Welsh.

Image shows a woman standing next to a sign It is an approach which has helped patients express themselves more confidently regarding their palliative care needs, including place of care within hospital or community settings.

Eleri said: “You can look at the names of patients and have an indication of the chance that they will speak Welsh, and sometimes it’s their address which can make you aware.

PICTURED: Eleri was nominated for the health board's annual awards following her efforts to promote the Welsh language within healthcare.

“As a Clinical Nurse Specialist in Palliative care, being able to communicate in Welsh around matters of symptom control, psychological, spiritual and social needs and care at end of life has been highly valuable.

“The language has allowed me to assess patients in the language of the patient’s choice, and it has allowed patients and relatives to express themselves authentically, leading to better support.”

Eleri’s promotion of the Welsh language saw her nominated for an award at the health board’s annual Living Our Values recognition event.

She is encouraging more positive change within the Swansea Bay workforce. Her determination to further promote the use of Welsh within healthcare has seen Eleri work closely with the health board’s Welsh Language team.

She will also speak at a Language and Health Virtual Conference held in collaboration by the health board and Swansea University on March 7, and contribute to the development of National Welsh Language Centre / Dysgu Cymraeg’s website, which will be launched in April.

Swansea Bay staff have various options in which to either improve or test their Welsh language skills, such as designated website pages along with internal events.

Jordan Morgan-Hughes, the health board’s Welsh Language Officer, said: "Being able to access healthcare in Welsh is much more than a ‘want’ for our patients. For many, it is simply a need.

"When accessing care, many patients are at their most vulnerable, and it is therefore vital that we are able to communicate with them in the language that they are most comfortable using.

"This can often lead to a deeper, more thorough understanding of the themes being discussed and can often lead to improved patient outcomes.

"We are committed to growing our ability to offer care to our patients in Welsh and later this year we will publish a five-year plan detailing the steps we will take on this journey.

"We encourage all our staff who are able to use Welsh to do so. We have adopted the orange speech bubble symbol as our standard identifier of being able to use Welsh and this is worn by staff who are fluent and those who are learning.

"We are fortunate to be supported by the National Centre for Learning Welsh, who have funded entry level classes for over 100 members of our workforce to start their learning journey. Such was the interest when this was offered, we could have filled the classes three times over.

"We are also developing mentoring opportunities for staff who have a good knowledge of Welsh, but lack the confidence to use it. This will see us work with colleagues at Swansea University to offer one-to-one coaching as well as training for small groups so that everybody who wants to, can feel confident and able to use their Welsh with our patients."

Rydym yn croesawu gohebiaeth a galwadau ffôn yn y Gymraeg neu'r Saesneg. Atebir gohebiaeth Gymraeg yn y Gymraeg, ac ni fydd hyn yn arwain at oedi. Mae’r dudalen hon ar gael yn Gymraeg drwy bwyso’r botwm ar y dde ar frig y dudalen.

We welcome correspondence and telephone calls in Welsh or English. Welsh language correspondence will be replied to in Welsh, and this will not lead to a delay. This page is available in Welsh by clicking ‘Cymraeg’ at the top right of this page.