A new specialist language tutor is putting the accent firmly on ensuring health staff can comfortably communicate with Welsh-speaking patients.
Melangell Tegid Gruffydd brings a wealth of experience in both teaching and promoting the language to her new role of “travelling” Welsh tutor for Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB).
She will provide a range of training to staff from all professional backgrounds, including people learning Welsh from scratch to those needing to develop their language skills.
In addition, Melangell will run training sessions at venues across North Wales including hospitals, clinics and administration centres.
She says she’s relishing the challenge of making as many people as possible feel at home with using Welsh to the benefit of patients.
“I decided that I wanted to change direction towards Welsh for adults and this role gives me the perfect opportunity to put my years of experience in teaching and promoting the language to good use.
“I’ll be working with staff from all professional backgrounds, from administrators to clinicians in a variety of locations across the health board area,” said Melangell.
“Some will be learning the language from scratch while others will have a basic knowledge but need to gain confidence in using it, which is a common thing with many people in Wales.
“The lessons will be tailor-made to the requirements of the staff groups with the aim of putting patients first in terms of communication.
“The health board is very proactive in Wales in its approach to ensuring that everything is bilingual but my job takes things a stage beyond. I will travel around offering classes whenever and wherever possible.
“The health board covers a very large geographic area but I will group lessons together at various venues.”
Melangell is originally from the former mining village of Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen in the Amman Valley near Swansea in South Wales.
After gaining her A Levels she left the local Ysgol Ystalyfera secondary school at the age 18 to go on to Aberystwyth University where she obtained a BA Honours degree in Welsh.
She worked with the Association of Welsh Translators in Bangor and Menter Môn, and then decided on a move into teaching. After gaining her Post Graduate Certificate in Education at Bangor University she took her first job teaching Welsh as both a first and second language.
After a spell at Ysgol Glan y Môr in Pwlhelli she went on to perform the same role at Ysgol Gyfun in Llangefni on Anglesey.
She stayed there until late last year when she left to take up her new post with the health board.
Melangell added: “I’ll also be supporting the work of the health board’s enthusiastic and developing Welsh language team. We have language officers located across North Wales and I’ll be working closely with them to offer training across the health board, in Anglesey, Gwynedd, Conwy, Denbighshire, Wrexham and Flintshire.
“My aim is to be approachable and make people feel at ease with the lessons. Learning any language can be challenging, and my role is to help people to understand why it’s needed. In our case that’s to put the patients first. Communication is a key element of care.
“I’m relishing the challenge of meeting people across the health board area and presenting the Welsh language in an engaging and hopefully interesting way.”
Melangell and her husband, Dafydd, 43, have three daughters – Martha, 10, Begw, eight, and five year-old Anni.
“The girls have all been bilingual from the start but it’s never too late to learn the language.” added Melangell.
BCUHB has adopted the principle that the Welsh and English languages should be treated ‘on the basis of equality’ when providing services to the public. The health board is fully committed to fulfilling the new Welsh Language Standards under the Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011 and to build on current best practice to ensure patients are actively offered services in Welsh in line with Welsh Government’s Framework More Than Just Words.
Eleri Hughes-Jones, BCUHB Head of Welsh Language Services, said: “We welcome the appointment of our new tutor as part of a developing Welsh language service within BCUHB.
“This appointment demonstrates the health board’s commitment to providing the best possible bilingual care for its patients and service users.
“Many Welsh speakers feel more comfortable communicating in Welsh, especially in a healthcare setting, and providing support for non-Welsh-speaking staff to learn and develop their Welsh language skills will increase the capacity within the health board to ensure a better level of service.
“Providing bilingual care is important for the board and we are very happy to welcome Melangell to our team.”